Giving Birth to Love
One quality of the liturgical church that I most appreciate is its celebration of the seasons of the year. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost provide us with a twofold invitation. First, the Sunday morning scripture lessons and daily devotional readings remind us of the rich tradition that flows in and through our history as a Christian people. Second, and the topic I wish to address, is the invitation to recognize the events commemorated throughout the church year as symbolic of a universal spiritual process. Just as the church year recalls the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the development of the early Christian church, it also describes a spiritual process that takes place in our own lives. In the likely event that my words have caused you to question what I mean, let me elaborate.
At Christmas we reflect on the historical birth of the one we call Jesus of Nazareth. It is a time when we retell the story, deepen our understanding of its truth and hopefully experience the wonder of Jesus, God’s transcendent love made flesh to dwell among us. Looked at from a spiritual perspective, Christmas is a continuing sign of God’s desire to bring Christ to birth in each of us and through us into the world. Reverend John Shea, in his article “Giving Birth to Christ” references Angelus Silesius: “The angel Gabriel brings the same tidings to us as he brings to Mary. We are called to the same processes of pregnancy and birth.” If this is true, what are we to learn about our individual spiritual journeys from the narrative on the birth of Jesus found in the gospel of Luke? What can Mary teach us about giving birth to transcendent love in the world?
Margaret Guenther gives us a hint when she writes the following, “When we listen for the inner voice of God, we are open to our imagination and intuition. We let go of the rational and explicable and befriend the unconscious. We let ourselves be vulnerable to the experience of God.” When we release ourselves to experience God we subject ourselves to being touched by an inner transcendent source of love, as was Mary when she heard the angel Gabriel say, “Rejoice! O highly favored one, the Lord is with you!”
What an incredible gift we are given when God moves in our spirits! What an awesome responsibility that gift imparts! I don’t know about you, but when the favor of God rests upon me it is a time of mixed joy and terror. For God’s action in life challenges us to change and grow.
Scripture tells us that Mary was troubled by the angel’s message. It did not make rational sense…how could she be pregnant when she had not been with a man? In my imagination Mary not only pondered the question of conception, but she wrestled with the very real cost of being an unmarried pregnant woman in the social context of her time. Everything about this
message went against her understanding of reality and her sense of comfort. It challenged her to place complete trust in God’s guidance.
Like us, Mary was frightened. Fear blocks us from following the call of divine purpose in our lives; fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear that we are not worthy to follow through with the task(s) to which God calls us. Yet, the angel Gabriel reminds us, as he does Mary, “For God nothing is impossible.” What at first glance appears to us an impossibility God views as a growing edge. We have a choice. We can listen and follow God’s lead, often with fear and trembling, or we can walk away refusing to be co-creators with God in giving birth to life and love in the world.
Mary makes her choice when she responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” Through her courage spirit impregnated matter and the Word became flesh—we were gifted with the birth of Jesus.
What is God calling to birth in you
this Advent season? As you sit quietly
in prayer do you sense a nudging to serve the poor, to embrace the
brokenhearted, or to uplift the downtrodden? On whom of the least of these in the
In and through Christ’s love,
How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given.
I would be silent now,
and expectant . . .that I
may receive the gift I need,
so I may become the gift others need.
(Ted Loder: Guerrillas of Grace)