Pregnant with God
Grace and Truthby Isaac Villegas
Nora was born of Jen and Nick. Serena was born of Kathy and David. Benjamin was born of Celia and Jon. All these new babies came to us within the past few months. And our church has two more on the way: Rebecca is due this week and Martha a few weeks after her. These pregnant women display the profound depths of hospitality. Martha and Rebecca have made room for new lives to form in their bodies. They have become spaces where another can grow.
Pregnancy and birth are also the rhythms of the Christian life. We are like expectant mothers, surrendering our lives so that we may bear God’s new life in the world. We offer ourselves as spaces where God can birth good news. We bear Christ’s presence through our hospitality to God, surrendering our bodies to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Advent is our chance to remember the first time someone made room for Jesus. The angel Gabriel brought a word from God to Mary: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus,” he announced to Mary. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:31, 35). How did Mary receive this strange and wonderful news? She replied, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38).
Mary shows us how to extend hospitality to God, which is simply what it means to be a disciple. She made room for God’s life within her own. She opened her life, her very body, to bring Jesus into the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son received life in Mary’s womb. In her womb, Mary bore the One who is good news in a world full of bad news. The light of the world came from her womb. She shared her flesh with God. Mary’s faith made room for God to move in her life, and through her life into the world.
In a chapter of his book The Contagion of Jesus, Sebastian Moore offers Mary as an example of discipleship. Too often we give the impression that discipleship is a masculine endeavor because the Gospels follow the bumbling path of Jesus’ 12 male companions.
Although Mary is a marginal character, her faithfulness encompasses the life of Jesus. She is the first to give her life for Christ’s sake. And she follows Jesus to the foot of the cross.
The silent presence of Mary whispers the secret of discipleship. She does not seek to be the greatest in the kingdom, as some of the other disciples do. Mary sits with the humble. She does not seize opportunities to change the world with effective displays of discipleship.
Instead, Mary reveals the passive power of surrender to God—“I am the servant of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” The Most High comes to rest in the weak.
God desires people who offer their lives as spaces where good news is born. Mary’s hospitality to God, Moore writes, shows the kind of surrender that leads to “the forming of Christ in us as in her womb.” When we surrender ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit overshadows our body and begins to form Christ’s presence. Christians are weak people who make room for God. Discipleship is our unceasing struggle to welcome God into our midst, as Mary does, so that something unspeakably new and wonderful may be born in our world.
With Mary, we pray: “We are the servants of the Lord. Be it done to us according to your word.”
Isaac Villegas is pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship.
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