Emmanuel—God with us!

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By Loreto Xavier

My husband and I loaded his motorbike, with seven plastic carry bags containing mostly baby clothes and things I thought we would need for my stay in the hospital. I avoided sitting astride to protect the baby from the bumpy ride. And carried some of the carry bags in both hands, a precarious balance.

At hospital, they monitored my delicate health since it was a high-risk pregnancy and the baby was to be delivered by an elective C-section. It was just my husband and I and the hospital staff. For nearly three days, we had no visitor. I was beginning to get desolate.

But there were incessant calls. My husband, baptized Paul, was receiving call after call on his mobile phone from his parents. Not eager grandparents, waiting for news of their newest grandson. Rather, they were anxious parents of their son who had left home, inheritance and every comfort to embrace Christ, having rejected a few of 33 million gods that they—staunch Hindus—worshipped and feared retribution from.

Paul and I had been hounded for long. It was a marriage that could spell doom for their world and every effort was made to prevent it. An oppressive piece of legislation (Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, 2002) enacted the previous year came handy. They threatened our pastor and bishop with legal proceedings if we married, saying their son did not willingly convert. We unsuspectingly evaded private detectives set upon us and legally fought it out to get married. Our married life was punctuated by threatening phone calls, paid stalkers, mysterious ‘visitors’, and isolation at workplace to name a few. There was also a prediction. A soothsaying that Paul would never have an offspring.

Paul kept my pregnancy a secret from his parents, for their worst fear was forfeiting their wealth to an unwelcome grandchild. And instinctively, I feared for the safety of my precious child. Every time the nurse came in with the foetal doppler and placed it against my belly to check the baby’s heartbeat, there would be an alarming noise. I dreaded Paul receiving a call at such a time.

But then, the call came. He rushed into the bathroom. Today, they were calling their son to convey that they had fixed a match for him—an ideal bride from a reputable family. All that Paul had to do was to divorce me, return home and get married to the girl chosen by them. Paul would not tell them he was already a father; rather he protected me and his baby by assuaging his parents that his mind was made up.

I was beginning to get anxious. On the afternoon of the third day, a lady unknown to me brought lunch. She was very caring and kept me company with her conversation. But I could not rest. However, I was beginning to relax. That evening, a friend who had been out of touch for a long time, walked in. He prayed with us. Later, the youth group from our church made a surprise visit with flowers. The next day, a pastor visited us and prayed for a safe delivery.

I went in to the operation theatre jubilantly. When I heard the cry of my newborn son Jonathan, Paul’s parents came to my mind. I resolved to forgive them. My parents were too old and sick to be beside me. But in the days that followed, people who were mere acquaintances appeared from nowhere and took turns to be with me, help us learn to handle our newborn, bringing food, and taking care of my every need. The hospital stay was, however, backbreaking, thanks to an uncomfortable bed and side-effects of anaesthesia.

When time came to leave the hospital, though relieved, we felt reluctant. We had no help and no idea how to go about things when Paul went back to work. Above all, we felt vulnerable and insecure. If we asked for people to help, we would have to tell them our story and that made us feel more prone to unsolicited advice and the danger of our secret—our baby—being exposed to ‘spies’. But we returned home, uncertainties rife, trusting only God.

Often while narrating our experiences to friends, we get referred to as ‘holy family’. Indeed, there were several parallels in our story to Jesus’ birth. It always thrills me to discover Gospel parallels in life. To those who seek, God reveals Himself through signs, parables and parallels. To us, this is a story of God coming all the way to be with us—the Emmanuel.

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