If I sink back into the shoes of my 7-year-old self, sequined to the mark the debut of the church’s Christmas Pageant, then I was the star of the show.
The top of the program. Signing autographs outside the dressing room until the sun kissed down behind the hills.
I. Was. A Shepherd.
A sheet on my head. A staff in my hand. Standing off to the side of a stage just like this.
Should have been staring up at the sky, up a Tiny Tinfoil Star Tied Tight to a Spot Light. A galactic ball of energy that, when stripped down to the bare-boned simplicity of it all, simply whispered, “Follow.” To shepherds like me, counting sheep to pass the time. Follow. A King is Born. A King is Born.
But instead I stared at Mary with a beady-eyed look of Envy Perched up in my Pupils as a I craved to be the one to stand shaking in my sandals as a Golden-Glinted Gabriel stood by a kettle in my kitchen and told me I would birth a baby.
A baby born with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes & one nose. Just to Save a Soul Like Me.
And some would call him Son of Man, and you might say E-Man-Nu-El. But for right now, let’s just call him Baby. Baby, let’s just call him Jesus.
I’d have traded all my Christmas presents to be the one to stand with the pink bed sheet on my head and the pastor’s baby in my arms. I’d have cradled that baby & rocked it. The way the New York City Transit Line Rocks a Thousand Single Tired Souls to Sleep in Just One Sitting.
I’d have swallowed every rule in swaddling until… until I realized the Mandatory Matter of the Mary in the Manger that Night. For she would be the one to go out to find the words to pair with the teeny, tiny words that she collected so furiously like sea glass to somehow form a lullaby.
Which is really just a Single-Stranded Melody for a King that Deserves a Symphony.
I would have slid down from the back of the donkey, a sweaty little boy whose name was really Teddy, and we all knew he wanted to be a wise man but he got down on Hands & Knees to Carry a Marry to a Bethlehem that Didn’t Know Her.
Wait, I would have said. And poured out into a crowd of people just like this, to as people Just Like You.. And You..
What do I say? And how do I sing? Because my vocal chords aint strong enough and I’ve not got the bones of Billie Holiday, and my breath? It just aint thick enough to Sing a Song for the Son of Man, E-Man-Nu-El.
I’d have searched until I found the one to pull me in by the pink bed sheet on my head and say,
Mary, you be strong. And Mary, Don’t You Cry. And don’t you doubt these aching, breaking arms of yours. For your knees might shake, but your arms are strong. And they? Well, they were made to cradle a King.
You suck in your breath, you pull back your shoulders, and you sing for the baby whose cries will crack the mountaintops. You sing for the child who already knows all his Little Children and has the Holes in His Hands to prove he loves them so.
Be you 7-years-old, a shepherd staring up at the sky, or someone standing on a stage just like this. Wishing she had more to give her King than a Single-Stranded Melody for the One that Deserves a Symphony.
Still, you suck in your breath, you pull back your shoulders, and you sing.