Thursday, December 13, 2012
Blood and Water
The nativity of our faith is a story of life. Our precious nativity sets don't reveal the real grit at the bottom of this story. First, Mary, terrified, facing an angel who is giving her news that will change her life forever. Will she risk everything to say yes to God's call? Will she risk losing her place, her home, even her life to say yes? And Joseph, his scriptural right was to throw rocks at Mary until she died, but my nativity scenes didn't come with a pile of rocks. Joseph chose life and love even if it meant making a fool and spectacle of himself. And shepherds. We don't even have names for them. A nameless, faceless group who lived in fields with sheep...sans showers.
But it is also a story of a generous, mysterious God who did not abandon Mary without hope or help.
But do we choose to find abundance or poverty in this story.
Is this generosity? A first time mom, terrified of giving birth, terrified of leaving her family to go with a man she has not learned to trust yet to a strange town when she knew her child's birth was close. In those last weeks she would have thought of little besides the coming birth of her baby. And now, she is standing outside the inn waiting to be let in to the relative safety of a room with a bed and a mid-wife. Babies are rarely born without warning, and Mary was probably gripped by fear and terror at the thought of giving birth to her first child away from her home and family.
But there was no room for them at the inn.
Is this abundance? I can see Joseph's shaking hands as he tries to clear a place for his increasingly terrified almost-wife. He is ashamed to be unable to provide a suitable place and angry that his strong, skilled hands have no idea how to help a baby into the world.
But he did.
Was there a mid-wife? Did someone bring hot-water and towels? We don't know, but we do know that shortly after Jesus's birth, simple, lowly shepherds who knew the way of birth and suckling and new life, came and worshipped the baby. The gospels don't tell us that they helped, but I hear the heart of God there. These men would have been comfortable handling a new-born lamb and would have known some of those things that babies need in those first few hours.
A kingdom for the nameless, quiet, dirty ones.
God let God's own self be birthed in a dirt-floored animal shelter, but God found gentle souls to come and share in those first moments of love. God did not leave Mary without a protector and God did not leave her without help, but she could have found heaps to complain about in her story. When we say yes to God's call and find ourselves in a dirt-floored animal shelter, do we look for the gentle, humble shepherds who check the baby's cord and tidy up the afterbirth or do we decide God has abandoned us because it didn't turn out as we had expected?
Do we look for abundance or poverty in our story?