GIVING BIRTH TO GOD AT CHRISTMAS AND THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
At Christmas we celebrate faith is born in our lives. We celebrate Christ born to us and faith is
born into our lives. We always expect God to do the dynamic in the world or our lives. The
Bible and our personal experience tell us a different reality. God never dynamites his way into
our lives with a force so powerful that we can’t resist. Though many people tell me that they
wish God did operate in that fashion. The divine never takes us by storm. No. God always enters
the world in the same way that Jesus did on the first Christmas. God is gestated in a womb and
appears as a helpless infant that has to be picked up, nurtured, and coaxed into adulthood. The
presence of God in our world, at least within the dynamics of the incarnation, depends upon a
certain human consent and cooperation. That is what we celebrate at Christmas our willingness
to consent and cooperate with God as he gently yet powerfully works with us and through us.
Our difficulty is that we don’t recognize God working His way.
Father Ronald Rolheiser tells us in a recent article that Christmas is for marveling
at what once took place, but it’s also for imitation, for continuing to give God
flesh in the world. For God to take on real flesh and power in the world we must first do
something. What? The answer to that lies in the way Jesus was born. Mary, Jesus’ mother, shows
us a certain blueprint, a pattern for how God is born into our world and how faith is born in our
lives. What’s the pattern?
When we look at how Mary gave birth to Jesus, we see that there are four moments in the process:
Impregnation by the Holy Spirit; gestation of God within one’s body and soul; the stretching
and agony of giving birth; and the nurturing of an infant into adulthood. What’s
implied in each of these?
Impregnation by the Holy Spirit: Mary, we are told, became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. What
an extraordinary notion! This doesn’t just mean that Jesus didn’t have a human father, but also
that Mary so let the seed of God’s spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering,
fidelity, mildness, faith, and chastity) take root in her that it began to grow into
Gestation of God within one’s body: As we know, pregnancy is not followed immediately by
childbirth. A long, slow process first occurs, gestation. In the silent recesses of her heart and
body (and surely not without the normal morning-sickness that accompanies pregnancy) an umbilical
cord began to grow between Mary and that new life. Her flesh began to give
physical sustenance to the life of God and this steadily grew into a child which, at a point, as in
all pregnancies, demanded to be born into the world.
The agony of giving birth: only with much groaning and stretching of the flesh can a child
emerge into this world. It is always excruciatingly painful to birth something to the outside
world, to take what’s precious inside and give it birth outside. Mary, despite all the over-pious
treatises that would make Jesus’ birth something unnatural, experienced the normal birth-pains
common to all mothers. Nothing secretly gestated is born into the world without pain, Jesus included.
Nurturing an infant into adulthood: Annie Dillard once suggested that we always find God in
our lives as Jesus was found in Bethlehem on Christmas, a helpless infant in the straw who
must be picked up and nurtured into adulthood: “God’s works are as good as we make them.
That God is helpless, our baby to bear, self-abandoned on the doorstep of time, wondered at
by cattle and oxen.” Mary gave birth to the baby, Jesus, but what she ultimately gave the
world was the adult, Christ. Like all mothers she had to spend years nursing, cajoling, teaching,
and nurturing an infant into adulthood.
In that pattern, the incarnation, in looking at how Mary gave birth to Christ, we are given a
blueprint that invites imitation not admiration. Mary is the model of faith. What she did each
of us too is called upon to do, namely, give birth to God in our lives. Christmas is for marveling
at what once took place, but it’s also for imitation, for continuing to give God flesh in the
Wishing you every blessing as we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Father Ed Fialkowski
Pastor of Our Lady of the Wayside