Monday, December 15, 2008

giving birth

"Annunciation" by Henry O Tanner, 19th Century African-American painter

I have been contemplating young, unmarried Mary's reaction to the news that she would give birth to the Son of God.

I love that Mary believes this crazy news is possible. She questions the possibility at first--but not because she doesn't think herself worthy, or thought such crazy/good news impossible. Without cynicism, self-protecting irony or low self-esteem, she accepts the good news that God could be borne in her. And, even more, she knows that it means wild and world-changing things for everyone else, too.

She busts out in song, the news is so good, in a passage later in the chapter: the powerful have been knocked off their thrones, and the humble poor have stood tall. Words of promise, conviction and hope that would have been as wild in Mary's day as they are in these days when CEO's ask for government bail-outs.

All of this makes me wonder how I might get myself ready to have the same, hope-filled reaction to God's good news today. This Christmas, am I ready to help give birth to a new way of living in the world?

As all this has been rattling around in my head, I stumbled into these beginning words of Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again: the return of the ancient practices:

"You can't take an epidural shot to ease the pain of giving birth to character. In a sense, every day of your life is labor: the rhythmic agony of producing the person who will wake up in your body tomorrow, creating your reputation, continuing your legacy, and influencing your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and countless strangers, for better or worse."

Perhaps this Christmas work, this work of bearing Christ's light into a world of so much darkness and despair, is going to be harder than the shiny bows and tinsel suggest. But, then, perhaps it's also going to be wild and world-changing.

This season has so many good songs. And they're thick with possibility. I offer you this final verse from O Little Town of Bethlehem, full-up with a prayer for us to bear Christ into this world. To accept that we're the ones God chose to be with, and that it's gonna be good.

(You can sing along at home.)

O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel

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