(The following words were written for United Theological Seminary’s 2014 Blue Christmas service, and follow the traditional Blue Christmas candle-lighting moments of pain, fear, struggle, and grief.)
Mary: They say that women forget the pain of childbirth, but I don’t believe it’s true. I will never
forget the pain. I labored for hours on the floor of the stable. Joseph said we would not have
made the trip, if he had known the baby would come this early. But our boy was ready for
the world. He pushed out with both shoulders forward, like a force. The inn keeper’s wife
and servants said that Jesus birthed like he was determined to change the world. It seemed
like everyone knew he was special.
He was so small, so perfect. When the visitors came, I was quiet. When they passed him
around and held him, I pondered these things in my heart. I did not think so much about his
first steps, as I did about the first time he would fall; not so much about his first words, as
about the first time someone would try to shut him up. I thought about the first time his
heart would be broken, and what would happen if (no when) he failed. Childbirth is painful,
but looking at your perfect, innocent newborn child, and pondering how the world will treat
him has a special kind of pain, too. How do I bear that kind of pain?
Mother 1: I felt the pain right away, knowing I was hanging all the hopes of the world on my little
baby. Believing he could change the world. The pain of childbirth is nothing compared to
the pain of disappointment that you feel, the first time your perfect child is wounded by the
world: the first time that you, as a parent, have to watch as humanity acts inhumanely
toward your perfect little baby. I didn’t want to hear the whispers of my family, as they hold
my child that he is “illegitimate,” that he is somehow less than the perfect child of God.
Didn’t they know that would hurt? To have my own family whisper about me behind my
back like that? To say that my son wasn’t really a part of the family? Yes…. The pain. That
kind of pain tears a family apart. In that moment, I wanted to believe this perfect child could
change the world, and not be shamed by the circumstance. More than the pangs of
childbirth, how do I bear that kind of pain?
Mary: I couldn’t believe how quickly they came to fear him. He wasn’t even a toddler yet, and Herod
came after him. Herod. Herod was threatened by a coming king, he was afraid he would
lose his power. But what he did was go after the poor and the innocent – all of them — our
baby boys. It was the systematic destruction of all of our villages. We lost an entire
generation. The Empire killed all of our sons, simply out of the fear that they might lose
control- that they might lose their power. I couldn’t believe how much murder happened,
from the fear – the fear of my son. My son, really, what did they have to fear?
Father 1: It did happen too quickly. My perfect little boy with the round brown eyes that twinkled
with his laughter, one day out of the blue, became a menace to society. He went from being
the gregarious child that everyone fawned over, to the one who scared “the children” when
they play. Didn’t they see he was still a child too? All the girls that he had played with for
years, and one day their parents were pulling them by the arm in the other direction. Their
fear took over. They didn’t want their girls to love him too much. (Never mind that they
were still just children.) In their own minds, they turned him into a demon, but he was still
my beautiful child with the big round eyes. It left me with my own type of fear. I watched my
son start to put on a mask, to cover up that he was hurt by their unfounded fears, and I
became afraid. Sometimes my fear for my child is so great that I can barely breathe. How
am I going to do this? How am I going to teach him to manage the fears of others? Because it
is my son, really, what do they have to fear?
Mary: I struggle every day with the thought that I might have crucified my own son. Am I the one
that caused it? I pushed him at the wedding, to do that first miracle. I knew his gifts, wanted
him to show them to the world. I was such a proud mama. And I remember how he
hesitated. He was much wiser that me… he knew how jealous they would be. He turned the
water into wine, but only in the back room, with the other servants. Not in front of the
wedding party. Had I known the way the world would react to his miracles and healings, I
would have never pushed him into action. I would have tried to protect him. And I so
struggle, every day, with thinking: was something I could have done differently to protect
him from the hate of the world?
Father 2: It is a constant struggle. I worry every time my children leave the house. Will my
daughter become the victim? Will my son be just another target? The world is scary these
days. Every time my daughter leaves the house, I think of the predators that are out there.
Every time my son runs to the gas station to buy himself some candy, I worry until he is
home. Sometime I hold my breath until I see him walk back through the door. I want my
children to realize all of their potential – to show their gifts to the world – but how do I
protect them? They cannot soar when the sky is falling around them. I want to push them
out into the world, so they can shine and become all that God wants them to be. But what
happens when the world is threatened by their gifts? And so I struggle, every day, with
thinking that there might be something I can do differently to protect them from the hate of
Mary: Pilate didn’t just kill him. He made a spectacle of him. Left him out in the street for hours, for
everyone to see. They called him a criminal, but it wasn’t true. They didn’t just kill him, they
used him to send a message. Nothing was going to threaten their Empire. Nothing was
going to challenge their world.
And I just stood there. All I could do was stand there and watch. They killed him right in
front of me, and I was helpless to stop it. The grief…. The grief consumes me. What is a
mother to do? He didn’t just die, he was murdered in the streets, right in front of me.
Mother 2: With every death, there is grief. Loss of any loved one wretches our hearts. But it has
been said that there is a special grief that happens, when a parent loses a child. It goes
against the laws of nature, children are supposed to bury parents, not the other way around.
I had to bury my son, gone too soon. We have all lost our sons and daughters. We have
buried too many children to the senseless violence of Empire. People have asked me, “What
do I do? How do I go on?” Because they know that the grief will never end. I tell them that I
focus on the good times, sometime when I remember him smiling on his way to school or
eating a Thanksgiving meal.
Mary: I can focus on the miracles and the healing, the messages of love.
Mother 1: There isn’t a day that I don’t think about him. I get up every day and look at his picture.
(words of Nicolas Heyward’s mother)
Mother 2: I have to focus on the happy times, and not on the death, because that will eat away at
you. (words from Trayvon Martin’s mother)
Father 1: I can sometimes feel his presence. He is with me, especially when it rains. (words from Michael Brown’s mother)
Mother 1: And I cling to my faith. I may have lost my hope for now, and sometimes it feels like I’ve
lost my mind. But I have not lost my faith.
Mary: My heart is broken, but not my faith. I know my son is with us always. (words from Trayvon Martin’s father)
Father 2: Grief will not take away the beauty of life that we had. We can sit with our grief, knowing
that one day there will be a reconciliation.
Father 1: But when will that day come? How long will we have to wait?
Mother 1: How long, O Lord, will we wait?
Mother 2: How long, O Lord?
This liturgy works well with the song “How Long” by Mark Miller: LISTEN HERE
©2014, by Cathy M. Kolwey