Simeon’s last words to Mary are a somber conclusion to a joyful occasion. He has held the baby Jesus. He has sung a song of praise and blessed the child’s young parents. And then, with a last subdued sentence, he brings the parents back to the ominous future that awaits them. They will shed tears because of this child.
Every baby that leaves the newborn nursery should be wearing a onesie with the same message on the front: you will shed tears because of this child. Tears of exhaustion, tears of frustration. Tears of joy and tears of delight. Tears of worry and anger, fear and despair.
When we ask one another about those tears, we often find a surprising truth. Our tears are less about feeling disappointment in our children and more about feeling failure in ourselves. We berate ourselves, believing we are the ones who are supposed to protect them from harm, especially the harm of bad choices. During those sleepless nights, we all whisper the same refrain: Where did I go wrong?
Their child may have been the Son of God, but something tells me that Joseph and Mary had the same sleepless nights we do. No one who loves as a parent loves escapes the experience unscathed. Least of all God.
What happened on the night you caused someone else’s sleeplessness? What do you suppose they were thinking that night?
Forgive me, O God, for the nights you lost sleep worrying about me, as you wondered if I would ever embrace the dream you had for me. Amen.