Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Analogy: "Be a Womb. Be Surprised."

On this Christmas Day, I think back to the many which came before this one, considering from whence I came and where I will be on Christmas Days yet to come, as God is willing to give them to me. I also think of the significance of all of the elements of the birth of Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, considering what I might glean beyond the history that ushered in the events that provided for our atonement. What can I learn from those involved in the events that presented Christ (the Greek term for “the Messiah”) to the world? Though there are many other lessons to be learned about trusting God fearlessly, I always come back to thinking about Mary.

Considering that God uses such lovely analogies, parables, to tell us about Him and His character and how we should be in the world, it amazes me that the masterminds of the modern patriarchy movement fail to see so many of the beautiful lessons to be learned in those analogies. “The kingdom is as...” It seems as men today read this and then forget the subtlety of analogies, making them direct associations and condemning those who see the subtlety, calling them heretical. The gender agenda makes analogies that much more serious. In Hebrew, speaks of redemption so strongly in its etiology that it is correct to say that “God marries” us when He redeems us. Instead of seeing the analogy of Ephesians 5 as a reference to redemption shrouded in the mystery of intimate loving relationship, it is carried out as a statement of gender legalism, dictating behavior. The masterminds show their discomfort with mystery in general, and their freewill theism shows through at the edges of their well-crafted paradigm, wrapped ironically in Reformed Theology. They manage to make their gender theology look neat and clean on the surface layers, though much contradiction lies underneath.

A number of years ago, I posted part of this following excerpt from a book of Advent and Christmas meditations, but I wish to revisit it again today. One of the subtle messages that I've taken great comfort and encouragement in can be found in the history of Mary, something that I'm sure will turn a patriarchalist upside down in frustration and disgust. How horrible to suggest that men learn by analogy from a woman about what it is like to conceive of something new – through something so gender dependent! Some might find that abominable.

Mary made herself available to God, and God spoke the Incarnation to her through the angel, and under the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived that which the Spirit placed inside of her. We are told that the Word of God is like seed, and like Mary experienced in her flesh, that seed of the Word can be instilled in our own hearts. The Spirit illuminates the Word for us and births it alive in our lives. If we let it, God watches over it to bring forth good fruit in us. So in a story of one of the most pivotal events in human history, we can find an analogy of what the Word can do in our hearts.

Trusting God for something new in our lives is “virgin territory.” Like Mary, we must look through eyes of faith and love, putting our trust in something other than conventional wisdom. We step out in faith, often when circumstances seem unsure or when they put us at risk. But oh, how we find strength and faith in the ideas which God has birthed in our hearts. Our hearts become like soil which cradles seeds until they grow. Our hearts become like a womb where new life grows, borne of love.

There are elements of this essay that catch me because of doctrine. It has twinges and tendrils of freewillism of its own, and in saying the same types of things, I would have left little details out of the prose. Yet, how tenderly it captures the idea that God births ideas in us and the purity of the faith we must have to sacrifice our comfort and faith in our own effort to bring forth what God would bring about! How well it captures the analogy of how the Word in its fullness and in its time gives forth its fruit of the love of God in how we live and how we affect the lives of others. Some of that comes easily at times, but we have our moments when we must heed the leaning of God on our hearts to do what He desires of us. Sometimes that comes quite easily, but other times require us to have a fearless kind of faith. We walk on water when we follow in obedience, living our own versions of the disgrace Mary bore as a virgin mother and the searing and tearing pain of the deliverance of a birthing mother in travail. Through the words of the author, I challenge you to be a birthing place for something new that God would bring about in your life through the illuminated Word as the Power of the Highest overshadows you. Count the cost of preparing that place inside you, and enjoy the mystery.

Excerpts from Loretta Ross-Gotta's

To Be Virgin

. . .What matters in the deeper experience of contemplation is not the doing and accomplishing. What matters is relationship, the being with. We create holy ground and give birth to Christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious Infinite One who stirs within. This requires trust that something of great and saving importance is kicking its heels in you.

The angel summoned Mary, betrothed to Joseph, from the rather safe place of conventional wisdom to a realm where few of the old rules would make much sense. She entered that unknown called “virgin territory.” She was on her own there. No one else could judge her for the validity of her experience.

She can measure her reality against Scripture, the teachings of her tradition, her reason and intellect, and the counsel of wise friends. But finally it is up to her. The redemption of the creation is resting on the consent – the choice of this moral woman to believe fearlessly that what she is experiencing is true. And to claim and live out that truth by conceiving the fruit of salvation. . . .

God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy is not in our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men have their gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, and belief. What is is that delivers Christ into the world – preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is the recollected one, the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us. . . .

The intensity of the strain that many of us bring to Christmas must suggest to some onlookers that, on the whole, Christians do not seem to have gotten the point of it. Probably few of us have the faith or the nerve to tamper with hallowed Christmas traditions on a large scale, or with our other holiday celebrations. But a small experiment might prove interesting.

What if, instead of doing something, we were to be something special?

Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.