25.12.17

Incarnation

Christmas is always a special time of year, but Christmas with a new baby?  Priceless.  The story that we celebrate this season feels raw and relatable to me.  We mothers touch and nourish and watch miracles every day.  We ponder things in our hearts, just as it was said of Mary.   But can I imagine what it means for a woman to give birth to the Son of God?  Never.  Can I fathom the fact that GOD came through a woman's body like my babies came through mine?  Of course not.  But this Advent season I'm soaking in two very real and especially close-to-my-heart stories, side by side.  There's the story my very own body has been telling for the past four years - pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and all that goes with it- alongside the Gospel story, culminating in Christ, and coming from a body just like mine.  The one in which he became one of us not on a bolt of lightning or with any sort of mysterious aura, but carried in a womb, and born of a woman - what we call in the Christian church - incarnated.  What we are really celebrating during Christmas, behind the cookies, the trees, the presents, is astonishing-  the Wonderful Counselor was carried in a womb.  The Almighty God cried when he was hungry.  The Everlasting Father took his first breath.  The Prince of Peace was rocked to sleep in his mother's arms.


Sarah Bessey wrote a beautiful piece on the Incarnation (and reflecting on her own birth experiences, one of which happened in a parking garage, which I am grateful is not my story), a part of which I will share with you today, because she says it more beautifully than I ever could.  So while you're finishing up the frenzy of Christmas baking and present wrapping, remember that no matter what you do or do not do for Christmas this year, Jesus is still born and we don't need anything to truly celebrate that.  Enjoy.
"...The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation.  It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state.
So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our careful editing.
Because this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places,  the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?
This is the stuff of God.  

//

The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?
But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.
It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.
My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now.
No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems.  The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially –  that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.
Mothers can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God.
There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.
God, Incarnate, Word made flesh, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit.
We can tell the true, messy stories of the Incarnation.
Emmanuel, God with us. 
May we recognise the miracle of the Incarnation, not in spite of the mess, but because of the very humanness of it."

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