My Christmas Eve homily from a few hours ago.

“Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart . . . “

Mary has had a lot to think about for many months now, ever since an angel, a messenger from her God, came to her to tell her that she was going to have a baby, and that it was no ordinary baby, but holy, born of God’s Holy Spirit. Ever since then, surely, she has been pondering, what is it that is being brought to birth by me?

In some ways, the story is hard for us to relate to. It’s so full of miracles, supernatural occurrences, predictions that come true as if by magic. One thousand and eight hundred years after Matthew and Luke told the story of Jesus’s life, Thomas Jefferson would retell it without any of that. In Jefferson’s Bible, Jesus was born, he taught, and he died. No miracles, no singing angels. Just a human baby and the miracle that is every birth. That, apparently, was meaningful enough to Jefferson.

And we don’t have to believe in the moving star or the angels or the messenger from God to connect our own lives to this story: the story which, at its core, is as common as the ground we walk on. A woman is expecting a child. He is born. She ponders what he will become. It happens all over the world every day.

We don’t have to have given birth, or be parents, or ever intend to become parents, to recognize ourselves in this story. We are all, every one of us, of whatever age and situation in life, like Mary in one key respect: Something waits to be born through us: something beyond us, beyond our understanding, beautiful, complete unto itself and yet dependent on us. It may be a dream, a friendship, a work of art, an idea, an act of love, a new way of being, a new world: something larger than ourselves and yet needing us in order to come to life. Whether it will be born depends on whether we give ourselves over to its birth.

The dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said, “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

What is waiting to be born through you?

Graham didn’t have any children. But she knew all about the quickening of new life within—the stirring of images, actions, ideas—and patiently waited and worked, labored, to bring them into the world for all to see.

What is it that could come into the world, could ripen and be borne, like a peach swelling on a branch, if only you, the tree, will dig your roots deep to bring up water, open yourself to the light, allow yourself to bud, blossom, and bring it forth?

Today is the last day of Advent. The time of waiting, the days when something is coming, are almost complete.

Something is always waiting to be born. Approaching. Needing only for someone to bring it to its full form and welcome it into the world.

And so this is a meditation for Christmas: the question, what is it that can enter the world through you? However ordinary you may think you are, just a person going along minding your daily business the way Mary was, there is something that can take shape only if you allow it. You can block it—you can resist it—you can refuse to bloom and let the bud wither before it comes to fruition. Or you can try too hard to make it happen, when it has to grow in its own time, like a baby. Mary, like a Taoist sage, neither strives nor resists. She knows something is happening that is bigger than her and yet that must come through her.

Don’t most pregnant women wonder how this amazing thing can be happening? How is a new life, a whole human being, being put together within their bodies? None of us knows how to construct a human being. Something beyond our comprehension makes it happen.

Don’t most parents look into their child’s face and wonder what she is thinking, what kind of person he will grow to be, what her fate will be, whether he will be happy and loving and loved?

Aren’t so many of our most important plans and accomplishments realized by a mix of our efforts and our getting out of the way and letting that amazing power move through us?

The artist makes himself a channel for inspiration. He doesn’t know where it comes from. He practices, he hones his skills, yes, he works hard like a woman in labor, and also, when an idea comes from who knows where in the middle of the night, he picks up his pen or brush and follows it.

The athlete works and practices, gets up early, eats well, drills with discipline, but all in the interest of letting the inexplicable, unpredictable power use her body. She knows that feeling of being in the zone, when she does amazing things on the field or the court without even knowing how she does them.

Even the activist, so intent on making a difference, is a channel through which the longings of the world for peace and justice flow. Let them come through and the world will change, through us and only partly because of us.

Something is waiting to be born through you, and only through you. Part of your role is to pay attention and know what it is. And part of your role is to move aside enough to let it be born. Imagine a pregnant woman deciding to take matters into her own hands and make bones, a brain, a heart. She couldn’t do it. She wouldn’t know how. Life knows how to make new life, and so she eats well, gets enough rest, tries not to take too many long journeys by donkey, and awaits the birth of this miraculous, unknown child. The child, as we reminded parents at their children’s dedications earlier this week, of life itself.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote that even what we call God may be something that is waiting to be born through us: “the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are.” Each person’s life, he wrote, can be lived “as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy.”

Something is ready to come into being through you. Something beautiful, unique, and holy can come to birth through you, and you alone. Like Mary, may we each ponder what it might be. May we be humble enough, simple enough to let ourselves be the sacred channel through which something new and precious travels from dark non-being into the light of day.

Like the morning stars, let us together praise the holy birth, give thanks, and treasure it in our hearts.

(c) 2011 Amy Zucker Morgenstern

Advertisements