When we found out that our extended family was going to increase by one, just before Advent last year, we were all a bit surprised. But Asher James Borror's arrival in July of 2018 was arguably the greatest gift of the year. He is a beautiful child physically (of course I am biased, but the picture above is exhibit 1-I rest my case), but there is something pretty amazing developing inside this little man-he is one of the happiest babies I have ever been around. He smiles when you walk in the room and loves to vocalize and laugh when you talk or sing to him.
Asher, like most Hebrew words, has multiple meanings, but the most common is joy, a fitting name for both my grandson and this reflection for Advent III. The rabbinic tradition presented Asher as a man of integrity (also a meaning of the root) and that the women of the tribe of Asher were beautiful, the men brave, and the grapes grown in their territory of a particular high quality. Sounds like my kind of tribe!
My dad never got to meet Asher. He got sick a few weeks before they were to visit. But he was excited to have another great-grandson and that there was one more male to carry on the name (I know so patriarchal and primitive, but we are sensitive barbarians) Dad was proud that he was the patriarch of the greatest number of Borrors from our clan since our ancestor immigrated to this country in the 1760's. On seeing a picture of Asher he quipped that we are a good looking family. I laughed and said well you have given us good genes. He said "I tried."
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people
During the weekend of Dad's funeral, I am pretty sure the thing that comforted mom the most was holding Asher and having her grandchildren and great grandchildren around her. At the funeral my sons spoke powerfully about their grandfather; we remembered; we laughed; we cried; we prayed; and thanks be to God, the children played. We watched them and held them and they gave us physical signs of hope and joy.
Now I am the patriarch. I would have been happy to have waited a little longer for that title. I told the fathers of my grandchildren that I expected their kids to honor me at my funeral at least as well as they eulogized their grandfather.
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.
Life is a dance between beginnings and endings But I believe in part that the birth of Christ was placed strategically near the Winter Solstice in part to remind us that there is a limit to the darkness. The baby born in Bethlehem is as St. Bonaventure observed a "coincidence of opposites" born a king and a peasant; born to live, born to die. The dark shadows of death both part and gather in the corners of the manger.
Yet the darkness could not overcome it
Father Alfred Depp from his unheated prison cell in 1944 wrote the following:
Is there any pint in bothering with joy?...Certainly it has no place in a prison cell where someone is pacing back and forth, his hands in irons, his heart swelled by all the winds of longing, his head filled with worries and questions...Now this is the decisive world. Joy in human life has to do with God. Creatures can bring us joy in various forms and can provide an occasion for joy and rejoicing , but the actual success of this depends upon whether are still capable of joy and familiar with it. And that, again is conditional upon our personal relationship to the Lord God. Only in God is (humanity) full capable of life
I am so grateful for the gift of Asher. I love him so much like I love all my grandchildren. And I am thankful for "unto us a son is given" a child, God in the flesh, who in bearing our mortality opened for us immortality.