Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Bethlehem journey, it’s like this. That whole embarrassing incident with the unexpected son-of-God pregnancy? Finally fading. Those first weeks of marriage have been negotiated, discovering each other’s ‘real’ personality – all veneer gone, bad breath in the morning maybe, food peculiarities maybe, the one who wants silence when the other wants to talk. You know.
Like putting the honeymoon of September to bed, as the school year gets dark and real and rocky in late November.
But then just when everything seems to be settling down, the census gets called. Does it ever end? Damned Romans. Damned report cards. Another crisis – how to get to Bethlehem just when the baby is supposed to come? But the donkey gets loaded anyway, because it has to happen, because there is no other way, because the Romans don’t care. The journey south begins, through the heat and the rocky countryside, away from the beloved Sea of Galilee, far far away from September.
Suddenly Bethlehem appears on the horizon. Maybe everything will work out after all. But waters burst suddenly, and pains start, and there is nowhere to stop, no shelter, no home, no friendly face. Except one, an overworked innkeeper who offers a stable – a cave really – straw and a manger for the laboring mom. How did it ever get like this? The overwhelming impossibility of life when you just can’t catch a break, and you wonder where your friends are, and you wonder where it’s all going to end.
Like the classroom near the end of the term. When the marking piles up, and the parents don’t get it, and the children are lost and angry and sad and disorganized, and you wonder how you’re ever going to make it through.
And then there’s that first cry. That tiny fist. That student who makes you sweat, or swear, but for whom you make all the difference. Maybe they won’t tell you for a day, or a month, or a year, or ten years. Maybe they’ll never tell you. But you know.
The world shifts, and you realize that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, that there is life here and it matters, and that it’s being fed back to you, one day at a time, and that you are not alone.
You realize you are sometimes the innkeeper, and sometimes the parent, and even sometimes the angel, singing off-key maybe but singing anyway, because some student needs a cheerleader, because there is no one else.
You realize that this educating business is worth one more step, one more reach, one more effort, one more day.
You realize that the heat and the dark rocky road and the smelly stable of your classroom hold a little bit of heaven.
You realize that you’re at the beginning, not the end, of a journey.
You realize that every day is the birth of what is yet to come.
You realize that the angels sing for every one of your students.
And you realize, finally, that the angels sing for you.