It is a lovely time of year to be pregnant. Twice I was pregnant during Advent, and memories of those special times resonate today.
Prayer was very different those days, and I wondered about Mary. Did her emotions fluctuate like mine? How did she feel when she would get a swift kick in her ribs? Did she weave? Knit? Sew baby clothes?
How was prayer different? I sensed there was more to those stories we heard every year, and with my first December pregnancy, I started to quietly read many, many articles about Jesus’ birth. I wanted more. I wasn’t satisfied to hear the same stories every year because I felt something was missing and then, I found the THIRD Nativity story.
The Third Nativity story is just two lines in John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.” John 1:1
“And the Word (that was with God and the word was God) became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
The emphasis is not on a story which could be metaphor to fit ancient prophecy. John focuses on what has become of understanding since the historical Jesus walked the dirt roads of Israel. John gets to the heart of the matter quickly as he understood it in his day, years after the story of the resurrection.
“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humanity, but of God.” 1:10–13
John’s unsentimental story tells us the real deal. Jesus came and was born, lived, died and was raised again not simply to pay some obscure “penalty for sin” but rather to convince us that God loves us more than anything. That’s it. The story begins in Genesis, and it seems as though all we hear is this “sin thing.” We have been conditioned by countless sermons/homilies that we are an undeserving people. I suspect that we don’t really believe God loves us. How could God? We are incredible screw-ups!
We argue about this all the time and dismiss John to another time in the liturgical year. We argue that we don’t deserve this love. Calvin even believed and taught that it was determined before birth whether we would live on, or not. We are not good enough. We’ve failed at our marriages, our jobs, raising children, our vocation. We continue to fail at all sorts of things, and we define ourselves this way. That’s not what this gospel story does. This gospel story says that each of us, through Jesus’ birth, is given “power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of human beings, but of God.” That’s it. That’s it in a nutshell. LOVE.
This not the sentimental love of Hallmark. Not Mariah Carey’s emoting or Bing Crosby’s crooning tells the story. Gifts can’t be bought on Black Friday or sent by UPS.
You are Christmas. YOU and I. God loves YOU and God loves me no matter what we say. God keeps trying to tell us this and that’s why Jesus came. That’s why John was succinct. It’s all in the WORD.
Pat Pickett, OblSB