This post was originally written and published on Facebook in December 2017. Since then my little toddlers have grown into 5 year old kindergartners, and we are now washing and folding new blankets in preparation for their long-awaited sister.
Today is the longest, darkest night of the year. For some this day will go, unmarked, a day like any other day. Others will be celebrating the winter solstice. Many Christians will gather tonight for a special service, a Blue Christmas service, a time to acknowledge that the holidays are not always joyful for everyone. A time to remember our loved ones who will not be seated at our Christmas feasts. A time to find hope in the midst of darkness.
I don’t have any fancy prayers or poems to share tonight- only a story. A story of a blanket. Or rather, three.
Trigger warning: pregnancy loss mentioned
Back in the summer of 2012 I had an early miscarriage. In the darkness of my grief I needed a sign, a symbol, that could give me hope. I bought a pack of muslin swaddling blankets, blue and white, and tucked them away except for when I needed to touch them to hold onto hope for a pregnancy with a different outcome. I became pregnant with twin girls, two bright lights in my life and the world. But the blankets I had bought were blue, and besides, we had been showered with an abundance of blankets when the girls were born, many carefully crafted by the hands of loved ones. And so the three blankets went unused, for the time being at least.
The first was used when our beloved cat, Vinny died unexpectedly. We wrapped him gently in a swaddling cloth and buried him in the yard of a dear friend.
The second was used to cushion precious, fragile items when we moved from one parsonage to another.
The third and final blanket has finally found its purpose.
Outside my husband’s church is a nativity scene. Baby Jesus came early this year, and as I walked my daughters to school they became very worried about poor Baby Jesus, sleeping all night out in the bitter cold. At first they wanted to bring him in, but I explained he had to stay where he was, so that people could see him. How would we keep the baby warm? “I have an idea!” my one daughter said, and she stomped up our steps on her sturdy toddler legs, on a mission. She emerged with a blanket in her hand, a blue and white blanket that had been tucked away in the back of a closet. Then, ever so gently, she tucked it around Baby Jesus before kissing him good night.
Countless people have remarked on how sweet it is, to see Baby Jesus tucked into the manger, a blanket to keep him warm. For me, it is beyond “sweet”- it is a holy mystery. For the blanket my daughter chose was the one I bought after I lost my first baby, who should have been born on Easter. Now it is laid lovingly on the Baby Jesus, who came so that we might have hope, and peace, and joy… and life.