Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Oh, the things we sing and talk about this time of year!
Presents, shepherds, angels, holly, snow, and female reproductive organs.
It strikes me as odd that Christmas season is the only time of year one will hear mention of the female body and reproductive system so often from the pulpit. Not sure what I’m talking about?
Why Virgin Mary, of course.
Words like "womb", "virgin", "gave birth", "with child", and "conceived" are everywhere. I wonder what Mary would think about how casually we address her womanhood this time of year?
It’s also odd because the female reproductive organs can be the most vulnerable place on earth. In the wake of #MeToo and a heightened awareness of just how much we treat the female body as a commodity, the sweet way we speak about Mary’s body and situation stands in stark contrast.
Female reproductive organs are some of the most abused, objectified, despised, and vilified aspects of the human body. The trappings of the sexual industry aside, even women don’t like their own bodies. These parts cause us general discomfort most of the time and at least once a month they down-right revolt. And we don’t need Genesis 3 to tell us that the general function of our wombs points to the fact that there is something broken with nature.
Speaking of wombs, we just can’t seem to find equilibrium with them. On one hand, we make the womb the rubric for a woman’s value. Having children is a battle ground in both social and religious gatherings alike. And if you struggle with infertility, the womb becomes even more controversial. You are at odds with yourself in daily battles within and without. On the other hand, the womb is despised as an instrument to be tamed so that no slip might cause an inconvenience to gestate. I don’t say this to be critical but to state a fact for many women and couples. The fear of an untimely pregnancy is a stress from married and single people alike. We have gone so far as to depict the womb as a personal affront to our rights and freedoms.
Either way you slice it, the womb is unpopular anatomy. A source of joy, yes, but also of pain, fear, and violence; vulnerable for mother and child alike. The cradle of life wrought with complications.
But Jesus chose it.
This was His desired vehicle for entry. This is where He chose to place His most vulnerable self - into Mary’s most vulnerable self.
Yesterday I read an Advent devotional from Madeleine L’Engle that said this:
“Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?”
“... went with all his love into the womb of a young girl”
All his love.
Reflecting on the first Advent, I am struck that Jesus chose the womb as his opening premier. I know we tend to focus on the trek to Bethlehem and the humble beginnings in a straw crib, but His first stop was a place more vulnerable, more controversial, more female, and more powerful than I could have hoped. It resonates with me even more than the thought of a barn birth. I don’t know how many poor, middle-eastern, stables you frequent, but the recesses of the female anatomy is something I am more deeply acquainted with. Thinking of how the creator of air and light poured His Love and all of Himself into the complex depths of darkness and liquid moves and stuns me.
And now, every year we take a place that is abused, feared, and reduced to being a vessel for status, and we remember that it is where He poured His love. Let earth receive her king, and may women bear Him hence.