Note: The Great Ends series will resume after Advent and Christmas on January 6.
I am convinced that I have been looking at and preaching the themes of Advent and Christmas through the lens of being a man my entire career. For years, I have worked over the themes of expectation, preparation and waiting. When I was raising children, the Advent calendar reinforced these themes—25 days of waiting finally being rewarded on Christmas morning in an eruption of joy and pent up anticipation.
I wonder how much my experience of being a man has shaped my understanding of Advent and Christmas. As a man, I was able to accompany the mother of my children through the long months of pregnancy, but I also knew that my experience was not her experience. I didn’t experience morning sickness. I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t watch as my body ballooned. I didn’t experience back pain. My body didn’t go through a metamorphosis. I mostly waited, practiced a new level of sensitivity, and prayed, all the while looking pretty much the same as I always had.
Quite honestly. I was also a little jealous. While I enjoy being a man. I also imagined that I would never have the same level of intimacy with the world and with my children that my then wife had. I knew that her experience gave her a different lens on the world and a different relationship with our children (and Creation itself!)
I write this to you because Advent and Christmas feel different this year to me (and to most of us, I assume). And I wonder if that difference is the same difference that men and women experience with regard to birth.
On the one hand, all of us are waiting for this doggone pandemic to be over. But the longer it has drug on the more I am convinced that this isn’t just a matter of waiting. It is also a matter of allowing ourselves to be changed and transformed in the process. I wonder if our approach needs to be more like the women in our lives who entrust their bodies to the process of pregnancy and birth.
We don’t know how this pandemic is going to change us, but already there are signs our body politic is being radically transformed. In the last couple of months, millions of people have left their jobs. A Barna poll just reported that 51% of mainline Protestant pastors across America have considered leaving the ministry during this time. Medical professionals and teachers are burning out and leaving their professions. People are re-prioritizing their lives after nearly two years of staying closer to home and focusing on family and relationships. We are not going to look the same or be the same after this.
Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus after a very long, historic wait. But birth is not just a period of waiting as we men often experience it. It is also a period of allowing ourselves to be changed and transformed. It is more than just waiting for God to show up. It is also allowing God to move in us, to grow in us and to reshape us in Her own image.
Birth is both a holy process and a sacred event—just like Advent and Christmas.
Someday this pandemic will be over. But I have a feeling that we won’t look the same when we come out the other side.
Happy Holy Days to you…
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades