Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm Going to Walk: An Advent Meditation on Strong, Dark-Skinned Mothers-To-Be

When Irie gave birth to our daughter we showed up at the hospital, parked in the garage as practiced, and then rode up the elevator to the main floor. Irie's contractions were monster, so the walk was very slow, and very painful.

When we reached the main floor lobby a dozen plus wheelchairs sat in dereliction at the front door. I told Irie I was going to grab one, but she refused. "No, I'm going to walk," she said. We continued across the floor, each small step revealing just how far we had to go. We were caught in Zeno's paradox. How could we ever get to the maternity floor if an infinite number of lesser points stood in our way?

And - and this is what really peeved me - why was the maternity ward on the third floor anyway?

We had now come to tortoise speed. And not just any tortoise, but clawed-foot tortoise - chryogenically frozen - and stuck in L.A. traffic - speed. I felt people's eyes. They could not bear to look at Irie. So they were looking at me. I knew what they were thinking. I was thinking it too. "Why don't you get that woman a wheelchair you idiot first-time dad?"

But still, Irie protested. "No. I'm going to walk."

I tell all this because I've been thinking of why it was that Mary was in Bethlehem.

We know the story. "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . ." And so Joseph went from Galilee to Judea to the city of David. And Mary, who was great with child, went with him.

I've always read the fact that Mary went with Joseph as a sign of the callousness of Caesar's census. And no doubt Caesar and his policies were indeed cruelly callous.

But my experience with Irie has me wondering if perhaps Mary went with her husband, not because she had to, but because she chose too.

I am wondering if maybe Mary decided to stand up and walk because she belonged to that long line of strong dark-skinned women who - the midwives stingingly told Pharaoh - "are not like the Egyptian women, but are vigorous in child birth."

And I wonder if she got up and walked to Bethlehem because she was about to have a boy born beneath the jackboot of empire. So she wanted to teach him a lesson about what it means to stay human in the face of oppression.

I'm wondering all these things. And if they are true then I have to draw one more conclusion.

That Jesus learned his lesson from his momma. And that's where he got his teaching. "If the Roman Empire asks you to go one mile, go also a second."

Go as far as it takes to show Caesar that he may take your name, your date, your tribe, your land, and even your time, but he cannot take your dignity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Proclamation

The water has broken
The midwife is awash in the virgin's womb
She can see the crown now
A human head adorning God's heart
This is the moment of terror
A race with time

Panic seizes the midwife
She shouts, she screams
But her cries make no difference
It is a gospel of straw
The child will be lost
Caught up with the multitudes
Only St. Matthew remembers
Rachel weeping for her children
She refused to be consoled
The midwife weeping for wisdom
They are no more


Three days in hell
Without hope and God in the world

And then the miracle
The Word breaks forth
It pieces the silence
In kicks and fits with groans too deep
The child is born


Sunday, December 14, 2008


I'm in the thick of reading and re-reading the Annunciation and Nativity accounts. At this time of year a preacher pretty much feels like she or he is living in a perpetual Nativity drama. "In the days of the emporer Augustus. . ." keeps spinning around in my head.

Compounding things is the fact that I checked out James Earl Jones Reads the King James Version of the Bible from my local library. Yes, Darth Vader reads the KJV. As I drive around I can't help but think I may actually hear him say, "And now a reading from the 1st chapter of the Book of Luke, I am your father."

Anyway, as I've been reading and listening to the Annuciation account, I noticed that after Mary asks how it might be that she could give birth without knowing a man the angel Gabriel replies by saying that nothing is impossible with God.

What is interesting is that this is the same thing Jesus says much later on when talking about a rich man getting into heaven. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. . . For man it is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible."

The annunciation brings startling good news: If God canpush a child through the eye of a virgin's womb, then God can likewise push even the most unlikely of us through the gates of heaven.