So much casting shame and guilt.
So much accusing of conspiracy and falsehood.
So much indicting for behaviors unbecoming and deeds unwelcome.
So much righteous indignation.
So much misunderstanding.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1: 18-19)
Joseph, the faithful, had every right to cast out his young bride-to-be, who apparently, was not. And yet… he grew curious about how this came to be. He questioned how it may have come about. He deliberated on the action he was about to take. He wondered if there was more to this story than he yet knew. And then,
an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-22)
Who am I falsely accusing?
What conclusion am I jumping to?
Where have I misread, mistrusted, and misunderstood?
How, in my righteousness, which I have called faithfulness
have I hurried to divorce – even quietly –
rather than consideration, consolation, provision?
Where, in my failure to be curious,
have I rushed to the … and now!
rather than abiding in the … and yet?
Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.
What a great name for a product, Resolve. It’s what I use on my carpets when my dog makes a mess. We have it in wide spray for “high traffic areas” and point and shoot for those smaller spots. Unfortunately, today there was much need for resolve and there wasn’t enough left in the can.
I’d like to say that this morning when I discovered the multitude of the project before me, I held my nose happily and, servant that I am, gamely took to the clean up. But no. I plopped down on the floor, rag in hand, and lamented, “there goes my devotional time.” Because that’s what this morning quiet time is reserved for. Sitting happily before my little lit Advent candle, saying prayers, reading inspirational writing and Scripture.
But this morning as I scrubbed, that became devotional time. Always with thanksgiving. Prayer never-ceasing, right? Oh, how God must feel when again and again we call on Him in the midst of our messes, piles that must be cleaned up so we can move on. With that thought, all of a sudden, my sullen demeanor turns a bit more to care and tending. This an old, old dog. Addled and wandering. He’s lost most of his senses and much of what he used to control. The process has been gradual. It wasn’t taken from him all at once.
In my care of him I have a glimpse of what befalls us all if we last. It’s really quite gracious of God to give me fair warning. I set the empty can of Resolve on the counter, in the only space available, right next to the creche. Nestled between the angels proclaiming the good news to a small family in a sodden stable.
What resolve that mother must have had. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” Mary said to the angel. And how many times after that time must she have resigned herself to that self same prayer? Mine sounds much more like,”Have it your way, God.”
Thus chastened, I returned to my scrubbing and, wouldn’t you know that the Resolve spray “for large traffic areas” settles invisibly on your carpet, until your add a bit of water on a rag. Then you can see it has expanded to service a broader area. Ah, my little version of a loaves and fishes moment. Imagine, if I had thought to bless before spraying!
So, there you have it: today’s devotion in the do-do. Literally.
How soon the Christmas carols that were being piped over speakers and intercoms everywhere are silenced. At the gym yesterday, there was no music. Just the sounds of people doing what they do in the weight room, on the track, in the locker room. I noticed the silence. This is odd because, as my kids will tell you, I never notice what’s playing on the radio when we are out somewhere.
But with the songs of Christmas this is different. I don’t exactly “notice.” As in, wow I love this song. It’s more that I begin singing or humming along. So that even when there is no music, like in the produce section at the grocery, I am humming Hark the Herald Angels Sing. If I catch myself doing this, I just smile and continue. No one stops me. This behavior is okay, until after Christmas, when the music stops.
Then, all of a sudden I stop singing. This is not a conscious decision. It’s more of a visceral thing. Just like the singing in the first place. It was organic. Not planned. Just bubbled up from somewhere inside that recognized the music, knew the words and had permission to sing them.
So this morning when I read this, “In Mary, God became flesh”* it struck me. Not just, “Mary was with child.” Or “He was born on Christmas day.” Not even, “He became flesh and lived among us.” But actually, God in Jesus began and grew inside of Mary. In Mary’s womb, God became flesh.
Somehow I had missed this before. God didn’t place Jesus the baby full grown into Mary. He grew Him there. Just as He grows our children in us. Just as He grows ideas in us. He plants them, knits them, shapes them and then, calls on us to birth them.
The incarnation of Jesus wasn’t just a “I am gonna be one of you and come and walk among you event,” God used the incubator of a person. The young girl Mary. Nine months carrying God’s child, God Himself, God taking shape in her so that He could be in the world. Our world.
I wonder if Mary felt a sense of loss when Jesus was born. As a mother, I can’t imagine she did. A mother is so anxious to see what has been growing inside her and to share him with the rest of his family. She is so fulfilled to be able to hold him and care for him. But I wonder…
What would it be like to truly believe that, “In Wendy, God became flesh”?
I’m not sure I can really “know” this; it’s more visceral, more organic, just sort of bubbles up from somewhere inside that recognizes Him as if He has always been there and yet is new again each time I greet Him. And there is singing.
*(from Becoming Light, by Thomas Hoffman)