https://www.flickr.com/photos/papalars/3667888891/in/photolist-6A7TzD-dbk8Vx-8wL168-5AYgoG-pDnmRg-9p6VWJ-o9e4C2-p47fN5-bvZv2b-bK4rLg-9oVntP-9Fa33P-9ELJ6t-fp2mB7-cUrAVE-myMpku-okANZn-6X41ox-9FcY3f-5pvXgj-b1Ft2r-biKGU2-9fwtFe-dLya5M-iC2nEp-3PgdYE-88DRc3-gPyghy-h9gPZs-i9aUxM-gPyT1M-h9gNrg-4ZouH-9ZevVW-b14nUT-gkUWc4-iC31vg-b14ii4-5gEVAN-9ZngJ6-5PVUng-b14mst-awWJ5W-3qbreH-4Rny3m-bEYxRg-7LVtJ7-b14h6t-4hrigS-b14kqr
Andrew E. Larsen/Flickr

Advent agony, Advent hope

“Our spiritual lives are pure maternity, of which human maternity is a signpost.”

“Our spiritual lives are pure maternity, of which human maternity is a signpost.”

I recently wrote these words to a young friend who, with her husband, is grieving the possibility they may never have their own natural children. I was not by any means making light of human maternity, or of their sorrows, which are very real. But as that sentence came to me, there also came a revelation and a sense of rapture. For barrenness itself, whether spiritual or physical, is an agony that points to the fullness of human joy and flourishing. Simply put, I believe we’ve been created to receive the seed of God, which, in union with our own, produces new life for the sake of the world. This is the great mystery of life, Christianly understood: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

It strikes me that the season of Advent is primarily about the revelation of humanity, whereas Christmas is about the revelation of God. During Advent, we, with Mary, would do well to ponder these things in our heart. Spiritually speaking, the dignity of the human person, in relationship to God, is that of maternal spouse (analogous to Mary— although her maternity is ever unique and world changing.) The deepest joy we can experience is to know that we carry the seed of our beloved in our womb. How can this not stagger us with wonder, with elation, and with hope for the full flowering of this love, which is Christ Himself?

I too know a bareness of sorts. Since I was a child, folks whose lives bore witness to this mystery have surrounded me. I saw it in my parents and grandparents. I learned about biblical heroes like Paul and Peter. I witnessed it in stories of the lives of the saints; not just historical examples, like Francis and Clare, but contemporaries like Teresa of Calcutta and Jean Vanier as well.

But to me, these stories were more a source of discouragement than hope. I felt my own inadequacies deeply. I was keenly aware of my own selfishness and attraction to “things of this world.” I felt others had an intimacy with God I didn’t have, and quite possibly couldn’t have.

In my teens, the charismatic movement gained momentum and I went from meeting to meeting hoping to get some of that ecstatic zeal the others seemed to possess. I read books, repented at evangelistic rallies, made many midnight promises to God… all in an attempt to find myself pregnant with love.

But it didn’t come through effort. In the end it was a gift and a grace. First came contentment and trust… and then, for me… song. And why shouldn’t the fruit of my love bear a stamp somewhat unique to me? This is a real union, the child of which bears my seed as well. The Christ I bear sings and tells stories. The Christ you bear will look different. That’s good.

However, a mystery to ponder during Advent is the incredible dignity to which you and I have been raised—to maternal spouse of God, whose love we receive and bear forth for the sake of the world.

Winnipeg based singer/songwriter Steve Bell is the author of the multi-media e-book series Pilgrim Year: Scripture, story, song, poetry, and art to explore the Christian calendar. Available online at: www.stevebell.com/pilgrim-year.

 

 

 

Dear Readers:

If ChristianWeek has made a difference in your life, please take a minute and donate to help give voice to stories that inform, encourage and inspire.

Donations of $20 or more will receive a charitable receipt.
Thank you, from Christianweek.

About the author

Winnipeg based singer/songwriter Steve Bell is the author of the multi-media e-book series Pilgrim Year: Scripture, story, song, poetry, and art to explore the Christian calendar. Available online at: www.stevebell.com/pilgrim-year