Giving Birth to Hope

What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be Mary.”

Meister Eckhart (15th century German mystic)

Merry Christmas!  This, the culmination of Advent, is one of my favorite times of year.  As previously stated, the word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming.”  Indeed, it is a time of year when we tune our hearts and minds to remembering the coming of the greatest Hope: Jesus.

This is indeed a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God.  Kairos is a Greek word for time unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.”  Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the human cloak when God comes to dwell among his people in an extra-ordinary way.

That sums up Advent: God going to great lengths to love us, coming to us in a manner in which we could truly relate; it is God coming to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah.  Christmas is the great act of God’s faithful love among us, of God saying “I have solidarity with you and I will spare no expense to show you My Love and My Presence.”

I fear we have, somewhere along the way, fallen prey to the same distortion that the people did who lived during the birth of Jesus, namely the misled belief that Messiah would come as a powerful military King to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.  We, too, look for God in the powerful…

God, it seems, had different plans.

God chose instead to come to us as a naked helpless baby born to a poor, unwed teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of the Roman Empire.  That fact alone defies all logic and reason.  Jesus did not come as some warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control.  No, Jesus came to us as one of us choosing to make himself known to us in vulnerability, fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.

Advent reminds us that hope, coming in the Man of Sorrows named Jesus, is indeed a scandalous moment – one where God made his grace known and available to each of us in a way that is both comforting and disturbing.

This time of year is a time to remember that the hopeful coming of the Messiah occurred in relative obscurity, with little pomp or circumstance, with no “Black Friday” sales, or shiny decorations, and without the hottest new toy that we somehow deem necessary for our survival.

Every year at Advent we are asked to pause…and remember that God comes to us the same way as 2,000 years ago: in the gentleness of vulnerability, in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time, in the promise of hope when all seems lost.

And let us remember too that Advent is not only a coming, it is also an opportunity: an opportunity for us to remember during the darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become like Mary a sacred womb, a place where Jesus can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.

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