"I don't know this child," I said to myself. She sat, a tiny thing, in my arms. She is a mere four months old, the child of a woman who works with me, and visiting her mom's workplace over the holidays. I'd positioned her so that she could see her mom the whole time. She glanced at me, looked for her mom, then relaxed for a few minutes. In those minutes I felt such huge responsibility. She had to feel both my strength and know she will not fall, and her personal safety and know she will not be hurt. I did not know this child and yet the fact that she trusted me mattered. A lot. The fact that her mother, who did know me, let me hold her mattered. A lot.
To be given trust is a huge thing. Trust is not easy for me. I know that my default position is to mistrust others and the world. I know that I am hurt too easily by my misreading things with the bias that comes from expectations of victimization. I know all that. And for all that, I come to see 'trust' as this marvelous thing. This incredibly precious gift. And it is. Truly is.
A few days ago a tired little four year old girl crawled up on to my lap and fell asleep. Again, I feel honoured. I feel that I have been given the bestest gift in the world. A gift of total trust. She slept because she knew that she was safe, that she would never come to harm. That she could relax into sleep. I held her and, as she drifted off to sleep, told her a sleepy time story. I know how the sound of a loving voice can form the backdrop to a peaceful sleep. So I told a story in a voice that skipped her ears and went instead to a much deeper place.
To be entrusted is to be ennobled.
And here it is Christmas Eve. I am a believer. This holiday to me is not simply about presents, though I love presents. It isn't about the carols, though I love the music. It's about this 'gift' ... a baby. I am entrusted at this time of year to hold a baby in my heart. This is not a hard thing to do. But I am also expected, by that trust, to keep the baby safe. This baby is sometimes only held but once a year, cooed at and fussed with for a few hours - like a child in an orphanage getting gifts from a charity at a Christmas luncheon. This is a baby that knows neglect.
I want my heart to be as warm as a manger. I want my love to be as strong as a mothers. I want my arms to be known as strong, my hands to be known as gentle, my heart to be known as steadfast. I want the children in my life to know that their trust is not misplaced. I want the parents of those children to know that I guard against harm when their child is in my care.
I want God to know that this baby, this birthday boy, is safe here in my heart. That this child will not know neglect, that this child will be held dear, that 'this child' that will become 'that man' will know love as he grows. That I will come to know him dearly, that he will come to know me forgivingly.
The first Christmas was one full of love. A 'Mary' Christmas.
And that's what I wish for you all today. Love. Strength, Security and Safety. A 'Mary' Christmas indeed.