when your Christmas stretches you …
ll day long, I pray to be a womb for God.
On the way to town in the morning, I whisper it to Father, “Come dwell in me, Lord. Come dwell in me.”
When we come home from errands and appointments, to crusty bowls still on the table and the entrails of scarves and mittens and boots flung everywhere, I remember.
And I pray it in earnest, as I pick up, put away, the words coming breathless like a woman made heavy, “A womb, Lord, a womb, a dwelling place for You.”
It’s when the phone rings at supper hour and I’m caught off guard, that I forget. That a conversation about a family gathering, about what he said and she said and now we’ve got to do this. That’s when my prayer seems to miscarry…
I don’t even remember that I have forgotten until afterward.
After dinner and after our nightly advent readings.
When the figure of Mary who is swollen with the Child lumbers ever closer to her deliverance.
Shalom, she counts the holes of our spiral Advent wreath, the candlelit evenings we have already passed.
“All these nights of waiting…” She methodically counts the remaining carved cups for candles. “And just…1, 2, 3… four more nights and Mary will be in Bethlehem!”
She’s clenches her hands in giddy glee and it’s not about waiting for gifts, but waiting for the Child.
She turns and says to me knowingly, her head slightly tilted, her nod and smile so certain, “I know it didn’t take her 24 nights to really go to Bethlehem. It’s just the way we count the waiting... right, Caleb?”
“Yep.” Caleb’s rocking chair creaks.
He leans forward to straighten one of the candles. “Did you move Mary a bit closer, Shalom?”
It’s when she reaches for the wooden figure of Mary that I remember.
I see the swelling silhouette of Mary there on the back of the donkey and the starkness of it strikes me, what it really means to be a womb.
Her skin is pulled taut.
Her belly swells round and her abdomen bulges and she is drawn to the outer rim of herself.
To be a dwelling place of God, a womb for Christ, means to be extended, taken to one’s outer edges… stretched.
To be a womb for God means there will be stretchmarks.
This season of Advent may hurt. I may feel weary. These days may not be easy. This is the how God may be growing within me.
I reach out and touch Mary full with Child and I hurt in the knowing: A true Christmas, one that God indwells, will experience pangs and pain.
Kids will cry and siblings will bicker and relationships will grow taut and there will be days where nothing goes right and the season rather dissolves into one sloppy, muddy puddle.
And this Christmas, I’ll be stretched thin and I will feel myself asked to love to the furthest edges of myself, asked to extend grace to the outermost reaches — because how else can I grow full and large and round with God?
To be a womb for Christ, I’ll feel my inner walls, my boundaries, stretch.
Stretching the shape of a soul hurts.
Shalom waits long before she blows out the candles on one more peaceful night of our advent waiting.
I linger with her in the flickering light. I pray.
I pray for those pregnant with Christ this Christmas.
For those who will extend themselves for difficult family members, those who will let God take them to the utmost extremity of selflessness.
For women who will be heavy with the Grace-Child.
I pray for the stretching — when I’m in the midst of six chaffing kids and I feel utterly discouraged and the season seems to be dissolving into one soppy, muddy puddle — that I will give way and let God enlarge me.
I pray for the willingness to return a phone call and try again — to let go of the stiff sides of my heart that God might stir within.
I pray for the soul stretchmarks.
Shalom leans over the figurine of Mary and blows out the candles.
We sit a moment longer, her and I.
Her and I here —
expecting Christ in all this dark…
riend, if this season is stretching you, this Christmas, a bit painful in some ways, and you need prayer at all? Join us here with a note — We’d love to gather round you today in prayer…
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