Actually, that simple question masks many levels of meaning.
In everyday conversation, it can mean that Christmas flew by in the twinkling of eye. In a Christian context, it can mean did you get to church on Christmas.
In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I am asking whether Christmas is the celebration of a moment in the past or something that takes place in your life every day?
Mary as mother
We all know the story of the birth of Christ … Mary, Jesus’ birth, a manger, shepherds, wise men, etc…
But do we understand that Mary’s motherhood was part of a process?
Mary gave birth to Christ as part of a process. The process involves things before and after the moment of gasping for air. Motherhood involves conception, pregnancy, nurturing, protection, mutual growth.
Birth is part of a process
A woman gestates, nurtures, and protects what is growing inside her until it’s sufficiently strong so that it can live on its own, outside her.
The process of gestation is often accompanied by nausea, morning sickness, and stretching of the flesh that can permanently scar the body.
Birth occurs in the normal course of events. What she has nurtured and grown inside seeks a new level of life. This will ordinarily be excruciatingly painful.
The two births of “Motherhood”
Every mother needs to give birth twice, once biologically and once in faith to an infant become an adult.
As her child grows, matures, and takes on a personality and destiny of its own, the mother, at a point, must ponder (as Mary did). She must let herself be painfully stretched in understanding, in not knowing, in carrying tension, in letting go. She must set it free to be itself something that was once so fiercely hers. The pains of childbirth are often gentle compared to this extended second wrenching.
Giving birth to Christ
Mary went through all this to give Christ to the world:
- Pregnancy by the Holy Spirit;
- gestation of child inside of her;
- excruciating pain in birthing that to the outside;
- nurturing that new life into adulthood;
- and pondering, painfully letting go so that this new life can be its own, not hers.
Mary was a wonderful mother, but in ways that went far beyond the simple fact of birthing. She heard the word of God and kept it.
That obedience, more than mere biological motherhood, gave both to an infant Jesus and an adult Christ to the world.
In all this, she is the exemplar of a faith-filled person who not only hears the word of God but lives the word of God in faith.
Our task, too, is to give birth to Christ. Mary is the paradigm for doing that.
Missing our role in the birth of Christ today
And in this, Mary wants imitation, not merely admiration.
Each of us, male or female, is asked to make our own contribution to giving Jesus flesh in our messy world.
From her we get the pattern of doers of the Word:
- Let the word of God take root and make you pregnant;
- Gestate that by giving it the nourishing sustenance of your own life;
- Submit to the pain that is demanded for it to be born to the outside;
- Spend years coaxing it from infancy to adulthood; and
- Do some pondering, accept the pain of not understanding and of letting go.
So, Christmas isn’t over! It began with Mary, but each of us is asked daily to make our own contribution to giving the Word of God flesh in the world today.
How aware are you of being a Christ-bearer in your world?
(I am indebted to some often quoted insights of Ronald Rolheiser “Mary as a Model of Faith in 2003)
Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk