Friday, November 25, 2005

a mother's wait

pink drew this last year and i found it so moving i've kept it at my computer for the past year. i loved it's simplicity - mary, alone, worshiping at her altar. it's sacred to me. it makes me think that there was that time when the animals were put out to feed, the shepherds had stumbled home to share their good tidings of great joy and joseph ran out for diapers. and she was left with the sleeping jesus.

there is nothing like that first quiet nap - everyone else is gone and you finally are allowed to study the face of your baby. what must mary be thinking?
"such tiny fingers, and oh, those fingernails, could anything be more beautiful? well, maybe his lips, those lips. the face of god. this beauty incarnate came from my body, i carried this child deep within my innermost parts and now i must share him with the world. but just for this one moment, in this quiet time he's still mine. mine alone."
scott mcknight is blogging advent this year. it's helping me a lot. i feel so disconnected, so cut off, especially from ritual or anything communal. celebrating advent is helping. if liam and i could afford to both go to north park, and survive the cost of living in chicago we'd be studying with scott.

scott writes:
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “upright in the sight of God” or “righteous before God.” That is, they were tsadiqim – those whose lives were conformed to the Torah. I sketch some of this in Jesus Creed (chp on Joseph), but there is force in the Jewish world in being described as “righteous” or a tsadiq. Profoundly pious, rigorously committed to the Torah, and enthusiastically obedient are the sorts of ideas connected to Z and E’s reputation.

In spite of their obedience, they are barren. This description in Luke 1:7 immediately throws us into the world of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18:11), Elkanah and Hanna (1 Sam 1), and Manoah and his wife (Judg 13:2). Barrenness is a sign of God not blessing, and they were humbled by their condition. That they were aged complicated their condition.

Zechariah, in his bi-annual opportunity to perform the priestly function in the Temple and in his perhaps only time ever to get to do the incense offering, is met by Gabriel. Gabriel is famous for letting Israel in on the future plans of God (Dan 8:17; 9:20-21; 10:15). That future now includes two things that must thrill the hearts of Z and E: first, they will have a baby boy and this boy, to be named John, will be the instrument of God for a revival in Israel (Luke 1:11-17). In fact, he will be the Elijah figure promised in Malachi 3—4.

Zechariah’s experience occurs when all Israel is praying – this would be about 3pm at the time of the evening sacrifice. It is also the time when Israel gathered at the Temple to say its prayers (perhaps the ha-Tepillah, today called the Amidah, or something like it, perhaps also the Shema).While the people prays for God to come for redemption, which is inherent to these prayers, God is actually doing something about it – in a surprising way by bringing into the world a prophet destined for revival.

The boy’s name is to be Yohanan – “Yahweh has given grace.” But this boy will also be one connected with joy and delight and rejoicing and greatness and the Spirit of God (1:13-17).

Yearning is a theme of the first Christmas characters – they are all longing for the day when God would enter history and reverse the tides of injustice, violence, impiety, disobedience, and poverty. In the hearts of Z and E is a yearning for God’s promised redemption.
i've always felt more kindred with elizabeth than i did with mary. mary never really had to wait. she was the young virgin - didn't have to wait for a husband, didn't have to wait for a child. but elizabeth - oh, she is a sister to my story. elizabeth knows what it is to yearn.

i know what it is to yearn for a child.

we struggled with nine years of infertility before pink was born. every month i became a failure. my body rebelled against me. reminded me i was unfit to parent. unfit to be a mother. i can't imagine the yearning that comes both from longing for a child, and yearning for a messiah. to have both of these satisfied in john and jesus brings me to my knees. two women, related, but so very different - both become social outcasts because of their pregnancies - one bearing a child in her old age and one under mysterious circumstances that cause all to whisper her shame. connected by the fulfillment of the promise, tied together in a way that only god could orchestrate. the waiting of the world satisfied in the wombs of these two mothers who must share their sons in such extraordinary ways.

as we celebrate the waiting this season i will remember these mothers, i will remember their wait.

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