I love the church. I know that I’ve said many things and written many words that may cause some to wonder, but my emotion and passion about things such as church, faith and life together stems from my deep and abiding love for God’s church. I define God’s church not as a specific denomination but as an already but not yet reality where people who recognize their identity as beloved children of God gather to worship and grow. These people then engage in their communities – local, national and global – to seek change and transformation because their faith rests in a God of new life and healing and restoration. This is the image and practice of church that I love and this is the church that I fight for.
One of my favorite parts of being a part of the Christian faith is the Lectionary calendar. This resource divides up the year using church seasons – think winter, spring, summer and fall but for the church. Each season has a particular focus and practices that Christians around the world engage.
Four weeks before Christmas (which is an actual season and not just a day in the Christian tradition), begins the first church season – Advent. This is my favorite season of the year. Advent is a time of expectation and hope and reflection. It’s a time of waiting and watching. Advent reminds us that we are a part of something that is bigger than ourselves; that there’s more to the story and that we aren’t alone. One of the reasons that Advent is so important to me is that it’s where my belief in the Christian story begins.
I consider myself to be an Incarnation kind of Christian. This means that my faith starts with the birth and life of Christ. I don’t start with the death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe that God became human to live, not to die. While the crucifixion and resurrection are important elements of my faith, they are certainly not the main aspects of my faith. I believe in a God who promotes life, not death.
Advent is the season that reminds me that God loves the world so much that a choice was made, a choice that changed the course of human history. God CHOSE to become human to show us how to both live and to love – God, ourselves and each other.
This Advent season, I am engaging in a practice of reading and reflection with a resource provided by The Slate Project. I love that they are using the Gospel of Matthew as the backdrop to tell the story of Jesus’ coming through the lens of women of the bible who are named in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. We often forget the role that women played – not only the physical role of giving birth but the mental, emotional and spiritual roles that come with birthing HERstory, that come with giving life.
Today’s word for reflection was “birth” and is set in the context of the story of Tamar, which is found in book of Genesis in the 38th chapter. I’ve been thinking a lot about birth recently – the birth of ideas, the birth of relationships, the birth of children. I am 34 years old and recently found out that my uterus is filled with tumors; benign tumors, but tumors nonetheless. There isn’t anything to do at this point but to watch and wait to see what happens. My doctor has made it clear that having children in my current state is highly improbable. What’s ironic about all of this is that I never thought I would have children. I love, love, love, children and youth but I have so many fears and doubts about bearing my own child that I never thought it was a possibility.
While I am one who does not believe that my life is incomplete without the joy of childbirth, I now find myself constantly thinking about birth and life – two things that women are said to be designed to do – and this season of waiting and watching. I am not in control. There is nothing to do. I can only be.
In my 34 years on this earth as a woman I have constantly dealt with expectations of who I am, what I should do, how I should engage the world and what my relationship status (or lack thereof) says about me. Giving birth has been one expectation that I’ve carried with me for a very long time; one that I never truly felt like was a role that I was designed to play. There are some days when I lament not being in the mothering club in the conventional way. It takes my soul sisters to remind me that, on the one hand, I am a mother to many in unconventional ways and on the other hand, being a mother is not the end all and be all of this life.
When I think about Advent, I think about birth, about new beginnings about all that is life giving. I’ve come to realize that giving life does not have to mean that I carry a child within me. The word birth and the act of creating life have expanded in meaning. I think about how I create with my gifts and talents. I think about how I give birth to new ideas and experiences. I think about how life flows from me through my encounters with all whom I meet. I was designed to create life, to give birth, to be a part of history. Of this, I am sure.
So here I am, entering a new church year, a new season of my life, where I am expectantly watching and waiting and hoping. I am preparing my heart, mind and soul for what’s to come and look forward to the beginning of a new year. New life is bubbling within me and I know that something will be born in this next chapter. I look forward to the coming of Christ, t the divine becoming human, just as I look forward to what’s growing in me to come to life.