She waves through the front window, signaling for me to go around to the back porch, near the barn they are converting into an office.
It is about 5:30 p.m. on the second or third Sunday of this Advent season that doesn’t seem to begin. The sky’s lowest fringe is lit amber and peach, like the bottom of a stage curtain about to rise. The trembling forms of trees stand in a snowless, naked December.
I make my way carefully in the dim light around to my friend’s back door. My glasses are fogged from my breath rising from my mask. But I see my friend silhouetted by the light of her kitchen, arms folded around her middle, so recently occupied by her newborn son. I’m amazed. She made a person.
“I would show him to you, but he’s sleeping,” she says apologetically through the screen. “Once we get him down, we’ve learned to just let him sleep.”
“Oh, that’s all right. I completely understand,” I say. As if I have any notion of what it means to have your universe reordered by six or seven pounds of shrieking, damp imago Dei.
I awkwardly pass a parcel wrapped in brown paper to her. Her husband appears behind her in his socks. We stand and talk through the screen door.
“Open it,” I say, gesturing to the package. They oblige. Out it tumbles—the soft, lacey folds of mint-ice-cream-green I crocheted all through the past summer.
I originally bought the yarn years ago to make a hat. But when I heard a little one was coming, I unwound the pathetic beginnings and got to work.
I knew he would be special. So no ordinary square blankets for him. I’d crochet it in a circle, making it up as I went along. The bright petals of a sunflower, turning to face the sun, took shape. The baby’s mother will show him how to be a joy-seeker, to soak up every drop of light.
“Grow in wisdom, in stature, and favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).” I weave the prayer into the double crochet rows, the ones that wind and climb like small staircases along the path the hook traces in the air.
These are shepherd’s tools—wool and hooks. Is crocheting as old as shepherding? I wonder.
God is a knitter, you know. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb,” the psalmist says (Psalm 139:13).
Textile scholars place the invention of knitting in Egypt, several centuries after Jesus’ birth. “Knit” in Psalm 139 translates more closely to “interweave” or “cover.”
It reminds me of how God made coverings for Adam and Eve, even in his anger and justice. God wrapped his firstborn son and daughter in lamb’s wool and prophecy.
As I crocheted the blanket, summer turned to autumn. Disease trudged along behind a shy, tentative winter.
Now, we stand cautiously on either side of a screen door, full of loneliness, longing to scoop each other up like sobbing infants and reassure: “You are secure, and heard, and loved.”
I see the itch to comfort each other’s aching hearts in the way we are hugging our arms around ourselves and fidgeting with our shirt sleeves.
“I hear him,” the proud new father announces suddenly. He returns quickly and carefully hands a squirming, squeaking wonder to his mother.
“Do you want to try out Emily’s blanket?” the new mother says, looking down into a distraught, wrinkled face.
She wraps her firstborn son.
I’ve seen this image before, in Italy, carved into marble by Michaelangelo. It is the Pietà—Mary holding the dead body of Christ. I see a similarity in the way the cloth cascades over the mother’s arms as she gathers the outstretched limbs of her son to her chest. Now the image is framed in a screen door, backlit by the warm kitchen. But it is the same.
She wraps her firstborn son, her face intently focused with concern lest she should break him.
In a way, I’m looking at the Nativity. Each new baby, evidencing the miraculous possibility of new creation and imago Dei in flesh, is a small redemption of the whole world.
And somehow, for just a minute, I’m a part of this moment. I made the blanket and it is good, fit to comfort and cover a miracle.
God gave us, from his essence, this gift of making. It dignifies us.
Mary spun the sinews of the Son of Man around his bones in her womb. Mary wrapped strips of cloth around his fragile, newborn limbs. And it was Mary who covered the wounds of crucifixion with his shroud.
God gave Mary the gift of wrapping, of being good enough to clothe God.
Earth—from which God made the vessel for his breath of life—wraps Christ, “firstborn from the dead,” in the dust of flesh. And he is good. The Earth remembers her worthiness. she walks naked before him, without a woolen cloak of snow, shameless once more, this Advent.
Emily Stroble is a writer of bits and pieces and is distractedly pursuing lots of novel ideas and nonfiction projects as inspiration strikes. As an editorial assistant at Zondervan, she helps put the pieces of children’s books and Bibles together. A lover of the ridiculous, inexplicable, and wondrous as well as stories of all kinds, Emily enjoys getting lost in museums, movies old and new, making art, the mountains of Colorado, and the unsalted oceans near Grand Rapids. Her movie reviews also appear in the Mixed Media section of The Banner and her strange little stories of the fantastic are on the Calvin alumni fiction blog Presticogitation. Her big dream is to dig her hands deep into the soil of making children’s books as an editor…and to finally finish her children’s novel.