Sunday, December 21, 2014

Seeing the Christmas Narrative with Fresh Eyes

On Thursday morning, my spouse told me that he dreamed that I was pregnant.  I said, "That would be a Christmas miracle indeed."  I'm 49.5 years old, after all. 

My spouse did an imitation of Abraham/Zachariah, those men in the Bible with wives who conceive long after the time it's possible:  "What do you mean?  My wife is old . . ."  (imagine this said in a Yiddish accent).

I had spent the morning writing about Joseph and the Virgin Mary, so I was startled when he channeled Zachariah, not Joseph.  A bit sobered, I said, "So, we're different characters in the Advent story now?  Are we that old?"  Yes.  Yes we are.
I've spent the days since thinking about this incident and wondering how often we return to a Bible story to find that different characters resonate.

The Advent/Christmas narrative is probably the most resistant of our texts to an approach with fresh eyes.  Even if we haven't spent every Christmas Eve at church, it's a story that's know by almost everyone in our culture, except for the newest arrivals from non-Christian countries.  Those of us who grew up in churches likely spent many an Advent participating in the story in the form of Christmas pageants.

I've been Mary and I've been in the angel choir, but I've never played the part of Elizabeth--it's not a role that's woven into most Christmas pageants.

It's interesting to reflect that I am now of the age where I would doubt not only the late-in-life pregnancy narrative, but I also find myself having a harder time believing in the basic miracle of the body.  Once it seemed that the body could recover from almost any injury.  In these past few years, recovery can seem miraculous indeed.

This year, I will hold fast to the story of Elizabeth having a child, even though she's long past child-bearing years.  I have friends who could use that kind of miracle--not a late-in-fertility baby, but a renewal of the all-too-human flesh.  I will light my Advent candles and remember that with God, all can be possible.

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