As Christmas draws near, I’m thinking
About a courageous, vulnerable girl on the brink of motherhood,
On the brink of a new world being born
Through her very flesh,
and blood, sweat, and labor…
At least to some degree.
She knew that her “Yes” to the Spirit was a risk.
Joseph could desert her (but thank God he didn’t)
And the neighbors might whisper and snicker behind her back,
And her body and spirit would be pushed to the breaking point again and again
And there would be sleepless nights
And weary arms
And mess and tears and bruises.
And God Incarnate would become utterly vulnerable in her strong and gentle hands.
She knew the work of motherhood,
As we all know it in theory…
Before the reality of endless washings and feedings
And swollen breasts and aching backs,
And a ceaseless flood of worries
Bursts into our lives…
But she also knew that she carried
The promise of something utterly new,
The hope of the exploited and oppressed,
In the fierce, fluttering bundle of flesh
That grew and kicked and rolled and hiccuped
And would soon push his way through her
Into the dark, cold, lonely world.
Now my mind shifts to the days when
Mary held her child close as
They fled the wrath of Herod,
And hunkered down in Egypt.
How Jesus watched as
His mother and earthly father struggled to find food
And a caring soul to let them in,
Flooded, as the land must have been, with refugees,
Fleeing the Massacre of the Innocents.
I’m pondering how Jesus saw his parents
Love him through the struggle and hardship,
Toil and risk and dare
To show him beauty
I’m thinking of the return to Nazareth,
And the snickers and rumors,
And whispers behind the holy family’s back,
Given Jesus’ questionable paternity.
And the patient, persistent work of living through scandal
Impressed on Jesus’ heart the strength
To face down the ignorance of others
With confident defiance.
A mother with the courage to weather unwed pregnancy
And a father with the manhood to love her through it,
Bestowed on their son the blessing
Of not caring about status or reputation,
The courage to embrace the outcast
Whatever the authorities and gossips might say.
Jesus’ unapologetic audacity
Didn’t come out of nowhere.
It was nurtured not only by the Holy Spirit
But by the very human struggle
And persistence and resilience
That he saw in his parents
Who raised him to love the lost and least,
Heedless of the cost.
I’m meditating, in awe, on the courage it takes
To say “Yes” in all your fragile vulnerability
When the Spirit asks something
So seemingly impossible
As bearing raw, naked love
Into a hostile world.
I’m marveling at resilience it takes to see that Yes through
The volatile incubation,
The tumultuous infancy,
The rough and tumble childhood,
All the birth pangs and growing pains.
I’m thinking about all the ways we talk ourselves out of the Yeses to the Spirit
When the future is shrouded in frightening uncertainty
When obstacles and forces of resistance
Loom larger in the imagination
Than all the wondrous possibilities.
Mary may not have known
That it would come to the cross,
And still for the sake of the joy
That can only come through struggle and grief,
For the sake of an aching world that needed her to,
She said Yes.
I wonder if Mary doubted,
Struggled, wrestled, wondered, feared…
Even as she mustered up the courage
I look now for that courage in myself
As I hear the Spirit call…
For Christmas Eve is upon us,
And the Spirit of Love that grows within
Is ready to break through
Into this dark, frozen world.
Are we ready to deliver hope and joy and love into a world
Of fear and hate and war?
In spite of all the excuses that nibble away at our courage,
Telling us we’re just not ready, not worthy,
Are we ready to defy the devils of doubt and insecurity
And bear our truest selves,
The unique imprint of Love that each of us is,
Into the world?
And are we ready to look out upon each and every human face,
And recognize that we are all Godbearers
Pregnant with the promise of new wonders
And on the verge of delivery?
Are we ready to be gentle, and kind, and reverent toward each other?
Are we ready to give the shunned and vulnerable
The fearless compassion and solidarity that Mary found
Only in the humble animals
On the night she gave birth?
Are we ready to see and nurture God in the helpless and unloved?
Are we ready to deliver Love into the places where we cannot find it
To nurture it in spite of the naysayers
Might be moved by example
To say Yes to the Love within themselves?
Are we ready to nurture Love,
That it may grow beyond what we can yet imagine,
And break through all the dead ends and barriers,
Even death itself?
You entrusted yourself to be born to a vulnerable girl
In a harsh and hostile world,
Because only when Love is born,
Can hostility cease.
As Christmas dawns upon the world,
Give us the courage of Mary,
The humility of Joseph,
And the faithfulness of your own Incarnate self in Jesus,
To see the light of hope pointing beyond our fears and doubts,
To shrug off the cares of reputation and respectability that hinder us from bold compassion.
To say Yes to the Spirit
Bear you into the world
And follow Christ in becoming