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Advent Brokenness

Arrival of the Shepherds, artist Henri Lerolle
It was a lovely May evening, the kind we in Michigan savor like honey. After the brutal cold of winter, flowers blossomed, grass greened, mosquitoes flocked. School was almost done for the year - just the formalities of 8th grade graduation were ahead.

Why not saddle up the horse and go for a ride? Why not, indeed. So my sister and I did. I took Prince out across the road from our house, to romp through the weeds on a path my father mowed for us. The view from horseback on a spring night - well, nearly Heaven.

Until Prince bolted. He spooked. I fell. And my arm broke. Compound fracture.

My dog, a collie, had followed us out. He was not particularly trusting of Prince, as Prince would never allow himself to be herded, and this vexed my collie. My dog, channeling his inner Lassie, ran home without me.

My sister had been in the yard with her boyfriend at the time, Gary, waiting for me to come back. Instead, it was just the dog loping across the road. That didn't seem right, so my sister's boyfriend came out in search of me.

I was probably about 1/4 of a mile from home, and decided God helps those who help themselves, cowgirl up and all that. Holding my left arm gingerly, I started back across the field, leaving the damn horse to graze.

Gary, seeing me at a distance, yelled out, "You ok, sis?" And I yelled back, "No. My arm is broken." He didn't seem sure he'd heard me correctly, but as he neared and took one look at my arm, it was quite clear. And then he went into shock.

I kept walking, yelling back over my shoulder to him to go get the damn horse.

My sister and mother were in the driveway. My mom, a nurse, immediately stuck me in the passenger side of the car and then went in the house to get something to splint my arm with. She told my sister to keep an eye on me. My sister then went into shock.

Mom returned with two issues of Better Homes and Gardens magazine and a couple of long rags, which she used to splint my arm. I had already lost some blood, and Mom thought maybe she should call the ambulance. However, we lived almost precisely in the middle of nowhere, and we were about 30 minutes from the hospital. I told her no, you drive.

Many things happened after that, not the least of which were some lovely drugs that kept me from too much reality for a few days. Besides shattering about an inch of bone in my forearm, I also did some nerve damage, losing sensation in some of my fingers and part of my hand - which I never regained. I have a gnarly scar and a lumpy arm - forever broken.

I was struck, this past Sunday, by the brokenness in the readings. Isaiah speaks of the feeble, the weak, the frightened. The psalm echoes: we are strangers, outsiders, hungry, alone. Jesus affirms His identity in the Gospel by drawing attention to the fact that healing is taking place; the broken are no longer broken, but whole.

On Christmas Day, we will gather around the Christ Child. It will be a scene of brokenness. A place where animals are housed, a feeding crib - not a bed for a baby - will have to suffice. A womb broken. A young woman giving birth with none of the female attendants: her mother, an aunt, a cousin, to help.The poor shepherds, used to being only on the periphery, are now brought, smelly and dirty and unclean, to see their Savior. Joseph, a man broken by the news that his espoused was to bear a child not his, is now protector and guide and husband and father.

And then there is us. We stand behind the shepherds, peering over their shoulders. We sidestep a lamb, bump a cow out of the way. We limp forward. We gingerly hold a broken limb close to our chest. Our knees shake. We stretch out a palsied hand.

And the Mother nods to us. Yes, come near. He is here for you.

You will not be left in a field alone. You no longer have to pick yourself up and find help. No drugs will be necessary to soothe your pain. The One Who Is has arrived. He is broken for you. He knows the pain, even in his little baby body.

The shepherds move aside for you. Their dog, still on alert, presses close to their legs. Yes, here is where the healing is, you think. Here my brokenness will be no more.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.