Is the birth of Jesus a story that can touch us deeply today, does it offer a way for us to know and follow Jesus? Do we get glib with what we know, and skate over the story?
The advent story is like a pregnancy, it creates an intimate space to be with Mary, from her meeting with God, through conception and pregnancy, to the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. What a marvel that a woman will bear this child, and Joseph will father him, ordinary people like us, called to do extraordinary things for God. The story, if we are game, is not an external narrative, but one where we are called to hear God calling us, to enter into His story.
From the moment of Gabriel’s visit to Mary we feel a tension, a pause and we are witness to a meeting. God will ask Mary to carry a child, and she will say: ”Yes”. She will become pregnant and carry the heart of Jesus inside her body, letting him nestle and grow within her, transforming her. She will, in her body and soul, bear God’s gift to us. Now during this time of advent she will show us the way.
Aren’t we also like Mary, asked into a mystery of saying “Yes.” to Christ in us? When I am drawn into this mystery of a life with Jesus, letting him into me, I too am like Mary, I too become a fiddle of questions and resistance, but he waits on me, as he did Mary, he gives me the time to want and need to remain the same, until the ‘yes’ comes. Our ‘yes’ becomes a pregnancy, he comes to live in us. He grows into our very fibers winnowing from the inside. It is a grace that he bestows, utter love. Mary carries Jesus within her, His being utterly absorbing her, making her His own.
What a wonder he gives us during Advent, not just that I wait for him, make this time for him, but that he is inside of me, transforming my heart, emptying me, to see with his eyes, to receive his love. When I receive the host, and my lips receive Him, and my tongue tastes His blood, I say “Yes”, I take Him into the cells of my being, He who gave me His heart then, at His birth, all those years ago, and now again, this Advent. He prepares us during this time for the next mystery that of His birth, Christmas.
Giving birth isn’t a passive thing, it will tear me open, pull from my depths a ‘yes’. This love we are given is not private thing, it cannot be kept inside, it must and will be born when the time is ready, a winnowing, that will strip me, break the waters, tear at my heart, so that I can receive love, to see with His eyes and His heart.
As I walk the desert to His birthplace, following the stars, looking for Him, I know that His path will lead me to Jerusalem. I follow Him to His last supper, my head on His chest waiting, pausing now, His human heart the same as mine, as He says “Yes” and moves toward His death, and resurrection, and the final mystery and the greatest act of love for me and humankind. But this is jumping ahead, and we cannot know yet what the child will become.
Advent is a time of pausing, waiting, feeling our way into Mary as she waits, feeling that space as God waits on Mary and her ‘yes.’ There seems time, on an inner level, to relish the pause, to let God have time with me. To feel the simplicity of choice that Mary makes. He is in her body; He is in mine, His blood flows through my veins. He gave me this with His birth. He marked me too, like Mary, with a heart that beats for Him, a pulse that jumps with His arrival. A time to reflect on a ‘yes’, to know this in my body and in my heart, to feel the fear and the joy, the longing and intimacy of His presence. The path I take with Him may not be what I imagine for myself; there is a pause as He waits on me.
Caroline Coggins works as a Psychotherapist. He has just completed the 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatias at St. Beuno’s.