an Advent meditation – whose birth…life really matters?

For this morning’s reflection, I reread Matthew’s infancy narrative, beginning, “Now the birth of the Messiah took place in this way.” Having awaken in a whimsical frame of mind, I thought, “I already know, biblically and biologically, how it happened!

But I don’t think the story is concerned with birth mechanics or logistics, despite Matthew’s details about Mary and Joseph, their betrothal, cosmic intervention and spiritual impregnation, Joseph’s determination to divorce Mary, prompting an angelic declaration: “Not so fast, Joseph!”

The point, I think, is about what the birth means; what sense it makes or might make. For if Jesus’ birth doesn’t connect to this life, my human life, then truly I can say I don’t know what happened, and, therefore, should ask: What does it matter?

Matthew sums up the meaning in six words spoken to Joseph in a dream: “You are to name him Jesus.” From the Hebrew Yēšûa or Joshua, meaning declaratively, Yahweh (God) helps, or prayerfully, O God, help!

For Matthew, Jesus’ birth meant that God’s help had come, entering time and space. That healing (from the Latin, salvus, the root of salvation) had taken flesh in human history.

This, I believe, is the same meaning of every birth. Every baby born is a sign of help, of hope for healing of our human race. Every baby born is an incarnation of a new generation; one that might learn – from the hard won wisdom and heartbreaking foolishness of current and past generations – how to be more freely loving, more faithfully just, indeed, more fully human.

If every birth matters, then so, too, all lives – black, white, yellow, red, brown, old and young, poor and rich, female and male, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, believers and non-believers, partisan and non-partisan, lesbian and gay, transgender and bisexual, oppressed and free, protesters and police, native born and immigrants, preachers and presidents, yours and mine – matter.

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2 thoughts on “an Advent meditation – whose birth…life really matters?

  1. Thank you Paul!! This was so uplifting!!! I really needed this! Have needed it for awhile I guess!! I feel like the world needs an “intervention” of hope. I’ve never looked at birth in the way you shared in this blog. Given all that is going on in the world today, I needed to read, to feel, that ALL births MATTER regardless of sex or race or heritage or economic status are a sign of Hope and thr opportunity to become more fully human!!! I pray that all the babies being born now and in the near future grow up quickly and begin a new generation whose primary mission is love & justice. Though I won’t live to see it, I still pray that it occurs so that those who will be witnesses to the peace and harmony of the world can say with meaning “thank you Jesus!!!!”

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  2. Amen, amen, and amen. I think and feel, in my lowest moments of despairing all the travails of life in this world, that things may not get better, at least (or at most) not universally. That is to say, there always, I fear, will be racism, sexism, homophobia, economic disparity, factionalism, etc., that bring sorrow to many. Still, what heartens me, even in periods of despair, is my capacity – and that of others – to have hope, indeed, to continue to hope, to continue to imagine what peace and harmony, love and justice look like. As long as I, as we can do that, we can keep trying to bring the vision to light as opposed to giving up. As I’m wont to say, in the face of an impossibility – in this case, the world being universally at peace – there are, at the least, two choices: try harder and quit trying. I prefer the former. Thanks!

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