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Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent 2.6

I was out most of today, doing a bit of Christmas shopping. Checking the sales, mostly. Grateful that our family celebrates "Little Christmas" - around the Feast of the Epiphany - when we, like The Wise before us, exchange gifts.

I found myself trying to imagine what Mary might have been doing this weekend, so close to delivering her child.

She was certainly not out in the malls, shopping the sales. Waddling her heavy, pregnant body down the aisles at K-mart, bending over the discount racks, looking for that perfect gift at the perfect price. Checking the various departments to find the items on her family's "Christmas Wish List."

There was no discernible joy in the shops and the stores today. Even the usually irrepressibly cheerful sales clerks could not hide the deep furrow in their brows, the anxiety that lingered at the corners of their lips, upturned in a professional smile, or the worry that creased the corners of their eyes.

Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, questions hovered like the last, stubborn, fat fly of summer:

Will I have a job at the end of the holiday?

How will I pay the rent?

The electricity?

The car payment?

Meanwhile, lives are held hostage in a congress stirring with hostile politicians, some of whom want to "Win One for the Gipper" and bring back the heyday of Regenomics, while on the other side of the aisle, the Party of "Yes We Can," is saying to an embattled, dispirited President, "Oh, no you won't."

Meanwhile, my thoughts are with Mary, full of grace - and child.

Never mind that snow did not lay on the ground while lo, how a rose 'er blooming from a tender stem hath sprung.

Never mind that historians say she probably had the child sometime in March, when the other lambs were being born in lowly stables, in hillsides around the Judean countryside, while shepherds tended their flocks by day and night.

I've always had a bit of a giggle that the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 was probably more like the Feast of the Nativity.

However, if you are going to take over the pagan holiday of the Winter Solstice, and make the date of the birth of Jesus fall on the 25th of December, then the announcement of her conception MUST have been on the 25th of March. Right?

Exactly nine months to the day. Right?

Anyone who has ever been pregnant can tell you that no pregnancy - no matter how perfect - ever lasts nine months to the day.

Except, of course, men do. Who have never been pregnant. So, how would they know? Really. It does make for a wonderful story, however. Miraculous, some would say.

Most women only try to stifle a giggle.

Every woman who has ever been pregnant - or longed to be pregnant - or was pregnant and lost the child - or decided she couldn't continue the pregnancy - will tell you that pregnancy and birth are miraculous events.

Some miracles are more wanted than others.

As I schlepped from aisle to aisle in store to store, I found myself wondering what Mary 'pondered in her heart' as she padded around her home. Watching. Waiting. Feeling the baby stir in her womb, move and turn and kick and then - miracle of miracles - drop into place.

Ready. Ready or not, here He comes, whether the clouds descend or not.

I'm quite certain Mary stirred a pot of soup or stew and not Christmas pudding. Or, perhaps she did. A little something sweet for her husband to enjoy after a long day over the hard wood and the saw and the lathe.

I imagine she said a little prayer for 'Stir Up Sunday' - something that came closer to the mark than the one in the Book of Common Prayer or Roman Breviary. I imagine it might have sounded a bit like this:
Here I am, God. Look at me! A woman and no man! Very young and very pregnant and newly married to a much older man. I am a disappointment to my parents and a scandal in my village. I am sometimes confused but I am not afraid.

Even so, my heart - no, my very soul! - is a reflection of your Love. And, my spirit is filled with joy!

As your child stirs within my womb, please, of your great might, stir up the hearts of your people that they might find the will and the strength and the courage to do justice, and love mercy. Help us to always walk humbly with you - much like the way I waddle, pregnant with you.

Come quickly, O God, and deliver me - deliver us - and show us the path that leads to our salvation.

For your people are suffering, O God. Come quickly to help us. Come quickly to bring justice. Come quickly to help us help ourselves, and bring us peace - your peace - that passes all human understanding, that we may know joy.
I found myself looking at the woman whose face was lined with worry as she considered whether or not she could afford the "Barbie Sing With Me Mini CD Player" for her daughter - and the young man behind the cash register who wanted to be any place but there - and the grandfather in the Irish golf cap and Brooks Brother's jacket who looked at the price tag on the Coach purse and then rolled his eyes and whistled before he put it back on the shelf - and I wanted to whisper,

"It's okay. He's coming. Stir up your souls and get ready. In fact, he's already here!"


IT said...

I ithink if we put a modern equivalent on this story, Mary would be a 16 year old pregnant immigrant, and Joseph would be trying desperately to keep their old car on the road as they try to make it to their next stop. At some level, they'd be invisible to the people with power, relying instead on the other poor folks who already have too little for themselves.

It's too easy for people to buy into a myth with the perfect blonde Mary with clean clothes and an unnaturally clean and smell free stable. The story is much more meaningful when you realize the utter powerlessness of the poor players. But it makes people uncomfortable--as it should.

Brother David said...

As one who majored in the liturgy, I have to be pedantic and point out that historically the Church celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation long before the Feast of the Nativity. That is 25 MAR was set in the Church's developing liturgical calendar quite a long while before the date of 25 DEC. And it was by counting forward 9 months by which the DEC date was arrived.

So your point about men and 9 month human gestations still stands.

BTW, I do like this article.

Paul Powers said...

According to Wikipedia, there's a theory that March 25 as the date of the Annunciation may predate December 25 as the date of the Nativity.

If one accepts the idea that Jesus is God incarnate, that he was crucified and died, and that he rose from the dead (which I do), it's not that much of a stretch to accept that the pregnancies that are the result of the power of the Holy Spirit tend to be more regular than those that occur the usual way. ;-)

Then again, the Gospel accounts don't go into that much clinical detail about Mary's pregnancy (unlike today when every bout of morning sickness would be considered worthy of a tweet). Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't show the same respect for Mary's private life, holding that she remained a virgin her entire life (which is really nobody's business, except Joseph's) and that the act of giving birth to Jesus did not itself result in loss of virginity (which is definitely TMI).

Matthew said...

And I suppose he'll forgive that I did not make figgy pudding on stir up Sunday.