It’s been so many years now since I spent my days with a human foot attempting to dislodge one of my ribs and the weight of a baby’s head caused me to have to pee every thirty minutes, but the memory hasn’t faded yet. I remember being desperate, weary, and so incredibly uncomfortable. I wanted to hold the miracle of life in my hands and sigh with relief that the waiting was over at last.
Christmas always brings it back to me, because during Advent I think a lot about being pregnant.
It isn’t just that Mary was massively pregnant while she rode a donkey on a cross country road trip that brings me back to my own memories. Nor is it that she and Joseph had to deliver their son in a dirty barn, isolated and alone after no one in Joseph’s hometown had any room for the scandalously pregnant couple. Every year, I simply become mired in the humanity of the Christmas story, even though I’m probably supposed to dwell on more of the spiritual joys in these days leading up to Christmas.
It seems so quaint to sing about Jesus being laid in a manger. It is a holy thing to read about a virgin giving birth to a Savior. But if we were the woman giving birth in a barn, or the unmarried teenage girl telling her fiance about her unusual meeting with an angel, we would not find our story to be quaint or holy.
Advent always reminds me that being a part of God’s plans can be a terrifying undertaking.
It occurred to me last week that Jesus could have entered our world any way he chose. He is, after all, the Word, and so He gets to write the story. He could have chosen a more sterile, comfortable way to join humanity as God With Us. Theoretically, Jesus could have sprung from a river, climbed out of a giant blossom on a tree, or He could have been born easily through the womb of a wealthy, older, unmarried woman, without pain or much disruption to anyone at all.
But I suspect that being God With Us compelled Jesus to write His story in a way that proves He understands that to be human is to be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and a little bit desperate. And when I think about the year we have had in 2020, I am unbelievably grateful divinity crammed itself into the body of a poor, wretched baby like that. I have hope for us all when I think of Mary lying in on a bed of hay, possibly covered in fleas, very far from the people who love her, basically quarantined by her physical condition.
The Christmas story tells me there is space for the holy presence of God in our lives, too.
Here, at the end of this year, we could birth a new kind of Christmas. We could sit in the less-than-ideal circumstances we have been given and choose to trust that the Holy Spirit has put something in the very center of us that is worth laboring to bring forth. We can practice the discipline of joy, and choose to celebrate despite our vulnerability, isolation, and weariness. We can practice submitting to God’s omniscience by embracing the idea that He has chosen to write the story of the world in 2020 this way, instead of some other way that seems easier and less disruptive to life-in-general.
The truth is, I want to be like Mary and Joseph more than ever before. I want to birth something in the world that we can hold in our hands as proof that the pain and the waiting were all worthy of our endurance. I want to sigh with relief together and weep for joy over all the mighty works God has done on our behalf.
I want a new kind of Christmas, one that is wrapped in the favor of God resting on the unlikeliest people in uncomfortable circumstances. I am pregnant with the longing for it, and I hope I never forget what this feels like.