December 20, 2020
4th Sunday in Advent
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn. ~ Luke 2:6-7.
Love is had only by loving. If you want love, you must begin by loving; I mean you must want to love. ~ Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
I remember when Jennifer and I went to our midwife in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for Jennifer’s first sonogram. It was a long drive from our house to the midwife’s office. Something happened, I don’t remember what, and Jennifer and I started fighting on the drive down. We were not even speaking to each other by the time we entered the clinic.
Our midwife said, “Hello,” and we put on our smiles and warmly greeted her while we gave each other snide looks. The midwife explained the sonogram to us, spread some gel on Jennifer’s belly, and began searching for signs of the unborn child. We waited and waited. Nothing. Jennifer and I instinctively reached out for each other’s hands. After several agonizing moments, we heard the distinct “thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump” of the baby’s heartbeat.
Jennifer and I melted right then. Tears filled our eyes, and we could not speak (maybe Gabriel the Angel muted us like he did Zechariah); we were so overwhelmed with joy. Our anger and pettiness literally disappeared in a heartbeat. Is there anything more powerful than love in the world? Love truly transforms our self-righteous anger into peace, our sadness into joy, and our despair into hope.
Mary gives birth to her firstborn son and wraps him in bands of cloth and lays him in a manger (Luke 2:7). We can imagine her tenderness with her newborn baby. She holds him gently against her heartbeat and sings soft songs to him and maybe he coos back to her. Love is mutual. Love is born.
Richard Rohr paraphrases Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), “We are all meant to give birth to God.” Most of us will never physically give birth to a child but we can experience the birth of Christ in the world in many ways, both big and small.
A warm smile. A kind word. A heartfelt thank you. A hug. Forgiveness. A meal made with great care. A phone call from a long-ago friend. Flowers blooming in the spring. A dog’s joyful greeting. Prayer.
Do we see God’s love in the world, and do we give birth to Love?
On Wednesday nights around twenty people or so meet at Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez to light candles, pray for our health care workers by name, and sing Christmas songs. After lifting up people in prayer, they walk silently around the hospital holding their candles for patients and hospital staff to see. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5). It is a very simple act, but maybe hospital workers, patients and the participants in the candlelight vigil feel wrapped in bands of cloth, bands of love.
Is this Christmas? Is this giving birth to Christ in the world? What do we give birth to in our thoughts, words, and actions each day?
Beth Richardson writes, “Into a world filled with fear, uncertainty and discord, God sends hope, saying, ‘I am with you.’ Into a world ruled by human wants and greed. God sends love, saying, ‘I will show you the way.’ God begins by loving the people of the world, choosing Mary to be love incarnate to the baby Jesus.”
Christmas is love. “Love is had only by loving. If we want love, we must begin by loving; I mean you must want to love,” said Catherine of Siena.
This Christmas may we receive God’s love and may we give birth to that love. May we wrap each other in bands of warm cloth. May we be vessels of God’s grace in the world.
Blessings and peace,
God, help us set aside our fears, so that we can begin each interaction, each situation in love. Amen. (prayer from Beth Richardson).