Tag Archives: Christmas

Advent in Labor & Delivery

I’ve spent a large part of this Advent season waiting at a Labor and Delivery ward collecting blood samples for my study. I hang out in the residents’ lounge until we get a possible patient, and, with an average of 2 eligible patients per day, it’s been a lot of waiting.

I thought that the waiting here would be exciting – new babies! Joy! Laughter! New fathers and siblings trolling the halls. Balloons. Shouts of celebration.

It has, in fact, not been that way. While there may be celebration in a patient’s room, the lounge and hallways are not so happy.

There was a woman who was G4,P0 – pregnant four times with no living children. Her current pregnancy didn’t look good as the resident went to deliver the news.

A pregnant 21-year-old was recently admitted not for concerns about her pregnancy, but because being in the hospital was safer for her than being at home with an abusive father and brother.

The attitude of the residents hasn’t helped me. This morning, I was greeted with the doctors discussing an upcoming D&C – a dilation and cutterage, a gruesome form of abortion. Techniques were discussed freely, as if it were any other medical procedure. The new laws leading to the closure of many Planned Parenthood clinics invoke a, “That’s so sad.” The one resident who likes to hold babies gets a hard time for it from the others. They look for any slight indication to use forceps so they can “get their numbers.” (One patient called them on this attitude.)
I sense that these new doctors see babies as a problem to be solved in the poor patient population here (via abortion, post-delivery contraception or sterilization, or invasive techniques to deliver a baby) rather than a gift to be celebrated.

I’ve been keeping my head in my book, trying to stay out of everyone’s way and tune out the disturbing conversations, and praying. It has been a sad way to spend the season.

On Wednesday, the lounge cleared out as residents went to assist in a delivery. I happily buried my head in my book and continued reading in peace. I was jostled out of the story a few minutes later by the loud, healthy cry of a newborn as the radio reached its climax: “Oh night DIVINE! Oh night when Christ was born…”

This one event hasn’t entirely redeemed my experience waiting here, but it has helped. That baby’s perfectly timed cry in the midst of all this… muck and pain is the perfect allegory of the Christmas story. Christ comes in the middle of a messy world – “long lay the world in sin and error pining.” He descended from heaven to be born in the mess of a stable and to live among sinners in order to make them whole. Waiting here in L&D during Advent has been a good reminder of just how much we need Christmas. And, of course, seeing very pregnant women is an appropriate reminder of the first Christmas.

Advent is also a reminder that Jesus is coming back. Though Jesus’s death and resurrection established his Kingship over the world, the world is not yet made new. We still kill the most helpless among us and turn our backs on the Lord. Creation is groaning for Christ’s return – groaning as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). Someday, she will be delivered and we will celebrate, with joy and laughter and maybe some heavenly balloons.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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Huron Carol

My favorite Christmas carol of the last few years is the Huron Carol.  It was the first carol written in the New World.  A French missionary wrote it to explain the Christmas story to the Huron tribe in what is now Canada.  (Michael Martin Murphey’s version with just a drum and his voice is my favorite for its haunting beauty, but it’s not available anywhere.)  Here are the lyrics for your enjoyment.

‘Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
Wandering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high…
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

 

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The Best Gift

You’ve heard it said that it’s better to give than to receive.  But when it comes to Christmas, it’s best to receive.  

Receive the ultimate gift this Christmas: Life!

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We Were Dead To Begin With

“Once again, I must ask you to remember that the Marleys were dead, and decaying in their graves.
That one thing you must remember, or nothing that follows will seem wondrous.”
– Gonzo as Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol

Our mutual love for The Muppet Christmas Carol greatly contributed to Greg and me getting married.  This great line – whispered by Gonzo for dramatic emphasis – seems especially appropriate for the grander narrative of Christmas.

Gonzo & Rizzo

The Bible tells us that we are born spiritually dead. We, like the Marleys, are decaying in spiritual graves.
In a strange sort of image, we, corpses, often try to “fix” our spiritual problem in any number of ways. But the attempts are as absurd as a corpse putting on perfume!  The corpse is dead, and perfume cannot do anything about that fact.

God sees us trying to fix our dead bodies, and says, “No, my dear one, that won’t work.  You need me to make you alive.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. – Ephesians 2:5

This story is the most beautiful one in all of creation, but we chafe at it. It bothers us because it requires us to accept that we are born dead.  (It reminds me of the medical students in the 1800s who refused to wash their hands between examining infected corpses and delivering babies: they refused to accept that a gentleman’s hands could be dirty. Story here.)

We ask, “Why would God make me this way (dead)?  That’s not fair.”  “Why would a good God make creatures that were dead?”

When we really get down to it, I think the heart of the matter is this: we squirm at the fact that, in our dead state, we need God.  We hate the dependence.  We think a “good God” would have made creatures that didn’t need to be saved – that didn’t need Him.

Oh, the pride!! Oh, the haughtiness!!!

Let us humble ourselves and see the truth: rather than puzzling over why we are born spiritually dead, let us recognize that God. could. have. left. us. that. way.

But He didn’t.  He was born a man at Christmas, and died, sinless, at Easter, to make His dear ones alive.

May we exclaim with the reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge: “Oh Jacob Marley, Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”  Praise God, who at Christmas became one of us so that we might be made alive!

Merry Christmas.

(If anyone has an image of Patrick Stewart’s Scrooge rejoicing in his bedroom on Christmas morning, I’d be grateful!)

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Lab Christmas

From ThinkGeek via Toxiferous Designs

A list of Christmas carols and when they should be sung in lab:

  • When performing an ELISA, sing It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (“painful steps and slow”)
  • When your experimental chickens arrive, sing The Twelve Days of Christmas (“3 French hens”)
  • When your fluorescent dye works, get your friends to sing Angels We Have Heard on High (“Why these songs of happy cheer? What great brightness did you see?”)
  • When you’re not sure if your lateral flow strip is positive or negative, sing Do You See What I See?  (… for the title line, obviously)
  • When you really want that second experiment to work, sing Joy to the World (“Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy!”)
  • Oops!  You’ve skipped a step in that protocol.  Sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (“when we were gone astray”)
  • When it’s time to close down for Christmas, sing Angels from the Realms of Glory (“Sages leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar”)
  • Always, sing Go Tell it on the Mountain (“When I am a seeker, I seek both night and day; I seek The Lord to help me and he shows me my way”)

Any others to add to the list?

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Paradox

Merry, merry Christmas.
Do you realize what a bizarre thing we celebrate?

God is born.
The Eternal has entered time.
The Immortal is now mortal.

The Creator of the known universe and beyond now rests in a stable on a tiny planet.
The Author of language and meaning itself can now only cry.
The Entity that requires nothing now lives off of a virgin’s milk.
The King of Kings now sleeps where cows eat.
The One who can cross universes with a step now must be carried.
The God without form now has a circulatory system.

And He does it for us: the only Sinless One will soon become sin itself to save the poor creatures He loves. God’s incarnation gives us a God who has known everything we know and a God who has defeated every trouble we face.

What a beautiful, wonderful paradox:
God is born!

Jesus, even though you come as a tiny baby, our entire world rests on Your shoulders. I still marvel that it pleases you to wish you a happy birthday, but without it we have nothing. Thank you. Happy birthday, Jesus.

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Communion

This week, I got to hang out with my collection of various relatives that I call my “small kinfolk.” It’s way too complicated to trace how we’re actually related. The two six-year-olds and the two-year-old think I am one of the coolest almost-grown-ups they’ve ever met, and the 7-week-old tolerates me, which I can accept.
So, on Christmas Eve, since each one grabbed one of my hands and pulled me down the pew (and because I bask in their attention), I sat between the six-year-olds Evie and Abbi. Between each verse of the service’s carols and after each sentence of the readings I got to inspect a new drawing or new spelling of my name. I also ended up covered in Abbi’s glitter since she sat in my lap. (Side note: the degree to which one is covered in glitter by a small child is an objective measure of how much fun one had.)
At some point, the outer rows of the church started to make their way to the front for communion. Since Abbi’s parents did not attend service and are not Christians, I realized the should-the-six-year-old-take-communion question was up to me for that evening.
I bent my head around the glittery child I held in my arms.
“Abbi, have you ever taken communion before?”
“I don’t think so.”
Thinking communion was a big word, I asked, “The piece of bread and the little cup of juice?”
“Oh yeah, I think I have.”
“Do you know why we take it?”
Silence.

Oh goodness, I think, how do I condense 2,000 years of tradition and various debates about Communion into a minute-long explanation to a kindergartener during a church service?

“Well, Abbi, we eat the bread and drink the juice because Jesus asked us to. Every time we take Communion, Jesus wants us to remember what He did for us. Jesus died for us so–”
” –so we wouldn’t have to die and we can go with Him to Heaven.”

I smiled. “Exactly.”

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. – Luke 22:19-20

Who cares if you understand trans- and con-substantiation, symbolism, communion/eucharist/Lord’s Supper, or wine vs. grape juice? Since Abbi understood what Jesus’ death meant for her, whether or not she understood exactly what death is, she understood Jesus’ point in instituting Communion. He asks us to break bread and drink juice in remembrance of Him.
And so I took my small kinfolk down and held her hands out for bread and juice.

Thank you, Jesus, for your gift. Ευχαριστω.

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