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Archive for December, 2018

Sitting in the darkened auditorium, I watch a young girl do her best to depict the yearning and maternity of Mary, holding her stomach tenderly, singing “Breath of Heaven.”
“I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done…”
Her voice is stronger than I expect, and sincere- as sincere as a high schooler who has never carried a baby can be. And I think to myself that she cannot know what the words really mean.
“I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear…”
The words are familiar to every woman carrying her first baby, wondering how she will survive the birth, what she will do with the baby once it’s born. And yet there is more here.
“Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan…”
The song euphemizes the “mercy of [God’s] plan”. But to me, this is the key. How much did Mary know of that plan, as she hid these things and pondered them in her heart? Did she know the full mercy of that plan? What did she contemplate, even as the song writer imagines her poignant plea?
“Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven.”
Because I watch this sweet young lady imagining a hypothetical baby, and I know that I have held my children in my arms, grieving. And while this girl is thinking romantically about carrying a baby, was Mary thinking about Calvary?
In my mind’s eye, I see the Pieta, Mary holding the dead Christ in her arms. I feel the emptiness of my arms, that phantom weight that has plagued me for the past eight years, and over again three times, and think of the weight of our dead Savior in Mary’s arms.
It is not what we are accustomed to associating with Christmas. But as I listened to the actress praying,
“Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness…”
It was this she was praying for. How to carry the Messiah. How to watch Him grow, and how to let Him go, as any mother eventually has to. And then how grieve the Child who was her Savior.
There is great joy in Christ’ birth, the birth of a King. But that juxtaposition of birth and death, Mary cradling her infant as she would cradle him in death, is the reminder of what Advent means. It is a light in darkness, but it is not angels and pyrotechnics. The truth of this world is that we live with sin and death. As someone has duly noted, “the moment that we’re born is when we start to die.” The biggest reality of life on this earth is that it will end.
And yet, it need not end in darkness. Because that is the hope of Advent- with His birth, His life, and His death, Christ has resurrected all who believe. Advent is the door that brings us out of the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, into the presence of Light, the Lamb Who is the Lamp of the City of God, through Whom shines the glory of God. And the truth of that world is that there is no death.
As “Mary” cradles her borrowed baby, and to be honest, my heart twists in sharp jealousy, I realize the miracle of the child symbolized here, surrounded by a tattooed assortment of mock wisemen and shepherds, and overshadowed by a brave “angelic” child in a sheet and harness, is that the darkness of death is only temporary, and I will cradle the babies lent to me so briefly by God. Our hope is that death is past, and we wait only Christ’s second advent to be brought into life. And this is the glory of God.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.

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