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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Two fathers of Christmas

I don't know when it was that I first tried comprehending Joseph's role in Christmas. Growing up it was too confusing to try to comprehend that Mary was his wife but Jesus wasn't his son. When I was really young I didn't even understand reproduction and sex yet, so Joseph at that stage was the guy who went to work every day and made money and told you to turn off the lights and to shut the front door because you weren't heating the whole neighborhood.
Then when I was a teenager I knew what it meant that "Mary had never been with a man".  It was sanitary and sanctified and it made the topic comfortable for the pastor. There are reasons they cling to the KJV that have nothing to do with accuracy...discussing the virginity of the mother of Jesus is such a reason.
When I got older I just stopped paying attention to Joseph altogether. He was Mary's husband but not Jesus' father and so he wasn't really a key player in this whole scenario.
Then I became a dad.
The night Morgan was born I was 34 years old, scared, hopeful, wondering if I could do this the right way, wondering if maybe now, with a granddaughter, my dad would want to have a relationship. Wondering if I would measure up. I was worried that my wife wouldn't be happy enough. That I couldn't spoil my daughter as I wanted to. I was afraid of a million phantoms and bogeymen that I shouldn't have even considered.
I was also a nervous wreck just watching the miracle of her life as it began outside the womb. A million things raced through my mind as I watched her enter the world, but none so frightening as the moment I thought her head popped off. Yeah...I thought that.
Here's the deal, Holly was doing fine as a woman does in delivery. She had early contractions around the 7 months mark and so the doctor had her on prescription Magnesium. Because she had some difficulty in the pregnancy, the doctor decided to induce at 39 weeks. So we checked into St. Thomas Medical center and began the wait for Morgan's arrival.
About 9:30, Dr. Ballardo gave Holly an injection of Pitosin to induce labor. The problem is that when Pitosin hits the bloodstream of a woman who has been on Magnesium, the result is horrible nausea. So my poor wife was pushing the baby out and in between pushes, vomiting forcefully into a bedpan. I stood by her side, holding her hand with one of mine and the bedpan with the other. I was positioned where I could see Morgan as she entered the world.
At some point, Morgan's heart rate began to drop just a little and Dr. Bellardo said "I'm going to have to help her a little, she's getting a little distressed". Okay this happens all the time but this was my first child and I was a nervous wreck. Was she okay? Was she in trouble?
Dr. B reassured me that this was normal and that she had crowned normally, (which means the top of her head was now showing) and he just wanted to give her a little help. So he attached a suction cup to the top of her head and began to gently pull.
So there I am...34 years old, no prior knowledge of what is going on, holding my wife's hand with one and a bedpan in the other and watching my little girl enter the world. At the very end, as Morgan was almost completely out of the womb. I was encouraging Holly, holding the bedpan, and trying to sneak a peak at my daughter. I was focusing on Holly one moment when I heard a loud "POP!" and out of the corner of my eye I saw Dr. Bellardo's arm jerk back...and for a brief instant I thought he had popped her head right off.  Just like that.  He apparently had seen the horrible look of fear before and he laughed. He showed me the thumb release on the suction cup and he assured me that Morgan's head was still quite intact. I laughed at myself and then with one last push my little girl came into the world...head and all.
It was a funny event in the midst of something that scared me with it's intensity and awesome solemnity.  I was a dad now. Now everything in life was important.
I thought about that story as I wrote the story about Joseph in "A Ragamuffin Christmas". Before I became a dad, I barely consider Joseph. Now I appreciate him. It's hard to be a daddy, especially with the situation as it was for Joseph. Imagine being charged with raising the very Son of God Himself. Imagine how nervous Joseph might have been when Jesus tagged along to the carpenters shop and picked up his daddy's tools. Imagine the thoughts in Josephs mind as he tried teaching Jesus his trade, knowing that Jesus was who He was and maybe wondering if He couldn't have done the teaching instead.
Imagine his response as he had other children and tried to be fair and unbiased.
Imagine if there were lean times in the carpentry business and Joseph worried all night about how he was going to feed his family...a family that included the son of God.
That had to be a burden that not many men could have handled.
Then I thought about the other Father at Christmas...God
I was a goofy, exuberant, joyous daddy the night my daughter was born. I couldn't wait to tell everyone in the entire world that my daughter was here and she was the greatest thing that ever lived.
Is it wrong to think that God might react that way?
Did He show up at some point that night, while Mary and Joseph slept and after the shepherd's had gone back to their flocks and nobody was around to see? Did his Holiness and Glory fall upon that filthy cave and did He enter in and kneel down beside the dirty manger where His beloved Son was sleeping. Did He pick Him up with no one to witness, and hold him to his chest and weep tears of joy and pride and love as I did the night Morgan came into the world? There is nothing in the bible to say that He did...but nothing to refute it either.
It's conjecture on my part...artistic license and nothing more. But having "Torn heaven open" and sending the Spirit and gloriously proclaiming "This is my beloved son..." at Jesus' baptism, is it a stretch to think He reacted to his birth as well?
Last year, I wrote one of  several new chapters for the original book and one of them was exactly that scene. a Daddy...having a few precious, tender moments with his Beloved Son before the war for the souls of men began. It's one of my favorites and I hope it will be one of yours as well.

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