Friday, November 27, 2009

God Made Flesh

Advent and Christmas are a time mixed with great joy and sadness for so many. For us, Advent is a time of longing for the second coming of Jesus, of being reunited with loved ones who are with the saints. This year, we long for my Grandma to be well enough to enjoy this (most likely her last) Christmas with us. Her hand is pictured below, with sweet Linus' fingers. So much sadness and so much joy in those moments together, the dying and the just beginning to live.

Newborn and old, living and dying, all come together in Jesus, swallowed up in His coming glory, into a life that never dies. May you enjoy this time of preparing for the Christ child and for His return in glory.

It was a simple question. “Hobbes, what are we waiting for during Advent?”

“For the baby to come. Our baby. Baby Jesus.”

I suppose it was inevitable, with my due date being only a week after Christmas, but we all still thought it was funny that he kept confusing our baby with the baby Jesus. They were such separate things, after all. Our baby was just a simple human, beautiful but flawed. But Jesus? He was Emmanuel, God with us! He was no simple human. He came as the Messiah. He was God made flesh.

God in a womb, with a tiny heart beating, tiny fingers and toes forming, tiny lungs growing. God joyfully kicking a rib cage and weighing down a tired, pregnant woman on the rough roads to Bethlehem. God making His way into the world through the painful work of labor. God born into the meager shelter of a cave with only animals to watch.

Did you ever really stop to think what that means? Our nativity scenes and carols seem so benign, too pristine and peaceful to convey what really must have happened that night. It was a beautiful and sacred moment, no doubt. But it was also a messy, difficult, and terrifying one. Any woman who has been through labor knows that all is not calm when a baby makes his entrance into the world.

I will admit that I wasn’t meditating much on the nativity of Jesus or on what Mary must have felt as I navigated my way through that long Christmas Day of labor. For many of the hours, and certainly in that last painful, violent hour, I just wanted the pain to end. I had a clean room and caring midwives and nurses. I was in a familiar place with family nearby. I had all of the advantages of modern medicine, but it was still an exhausting and messy affair.

But when I held my third son in my arms, so tiny and beautiful and red from the reality of labor, I understood what it meant to be “made flesh.” Maybe Hobbes wasn’t so wrong after all. Jesus and our baby were so very different and so very much alike.

In Christ, God stepped into our world, in all of its messiness and pain and exhaustion and fear. He became flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. The Creator entered His creation to bring to birth that for which creation, and we, are groaning. And just as I longed for that painful day to end and my baby to come, so we all long for His coming, for the end of suffering and the glory of His Kingdom.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." ( Romans 8:18-23, ESV)

For more entries in the Advent Carnival, go on over to Kerry's blog. If you want to know more about how our family celebrates Advent, read here or here or here.


Catherine said...

This is lovely, and reminds me of a post I wrote a few years back. Thank you.

Kate said...

I have come back to this post several times now, and every time, it takes my breath away. It is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it.

I wish you a peaceful Advent.

TwoSquareMeals said...

Thanks, Kate. This was written for our church's Advent devotional (available online). It includes several pieces of original artwork and writings from members in our church for each day of Advent. I love reading what folks in our church are contemplating about Advent and seeing some of the talented artists' work.

Blessed Advent and Christmas to you.

TwoSquareMeals said...

Cath, I was definitely thinking of that post of yours when I wrote this. I wish I could have just turned yours in for our church devotional, but it was supposed to be from folks in our church. I go back and read yours every Advent!

Farrah said...

Really great! Thank you so much for your reflections. I think about Mary so much, and how that picture of her meekly holding her newborn in the straw is SO not the whole story.

I have never given birth the way you and Cath and most moms have. I don't know the messy side of birth and labor (well labor a little but not completely) in that way like you. But, I do know how scary it is to know you are bringing a human into this world. And for all that can go right, there is so much that can go wrong. And it is a scary, scary place. I know Mary must have been terrified- of what she would have to go through and of what was going to happen beyond that when she had to be this baby's mother. And yet, all the pictures we see of her show her calm and reflective and "hiding things in her heart." How can these both be so true? And how can I live in that place of fear and anxiety and yet contentment and peace?
I am rambling now. But you have touched on something I think about a lot. I pray that, like Mary, I can learn to allow my heart and mind to be calmed in the midst of anxiety and the unknown.

Love you!