Discover more from Contents and Containers
Why bearing God is hard, but worth it
At our design team meeting, Andrew and Bryant were telling us the idea that the Mary is the mother of God—or more literally the bearer of God—is called Theotokos. She is our ultimate example of revealing Jesus incarnationally.
The secret we have to unending hope needs to be shared. It’s like a kicking baby that’s ready to get out. The urgency that we might feel to tell the world the Good News of Jesus Christ might feel similar to a woman who is experiencing contractions, who cervix is softening. The baby Jesus is crowning His head and He’s coming out of our souls. We can’t keep Him inside, He needs to be delivered.
Jesus is actually in us, in a tangible way, and He wants to be revealed in that way. The deliverance of Jesus that we are responsible for is urgent. And it might ruin our plans.
Being filled with Jesus should be urgent . Our lives should be so radically focused on following him, that they are organized around him and his mission. Our lives might be interrupted. And it really shouldn’t matter that much. You bear God! That is a bigger deal than anything in the world. It’s a no-brainer. Of course, I’m going to change my plans.
We’re all responsible for it. We all need to showcase it. We have a proverb in Circle of Hope that speaks to this: Women and men are co-bearers of the image of God and therefore fully gifted and responsible to lead, teach and serve.
Mary so clearly points out that women, even teenaged women, are as able to do anything (and more, in this case) than men can do. She is capable of doing the greatest thing that ever happened.
Mary got pregnant with God and fulfilled her calling, not just because it was her right to exercise it, but it was her responsibility. She needed to do it. Let’s look at the Angel Gabriel’s appeal to Mary.
You can immediately see how anxious Mary gets when the angel approaches her. “Illegitimate” pregnancies aren’t very popular in the U.S., but in ancient Palestine (and contemporary Palestine), they are even less so. In the shame and honor culture that the Middle East is, there is certainly a great deal of shame associated with being pregnant before you are married. Shame that Mary would primarily bear; Joseph, as its recorded in Matthew 1, figured he would divorce her quietly (a divorce for a man was usually OK, but it wasn’t so good for the woman). Joseph wanted to preserve Mary’s honor.
But both of their plans to save face and stay honored needed to be changed. Delivering Jesus, for us, can be inconvenient in the same way that it was for Mary and Joseph and it can be immensely difficult. Difficult to even believe.
The virgin birth, and Elizabeth’s equally implausible pregnancy and birth of John the Baptist are proof that God can move in ways that we think won’t work. Delivering Jesus might feel impossible too.
You might feel like the anxious virgin Mary who is unable to deliver the baby Jesus. The impossibility of your virginity and the birth of Jesus might be too difficult to overcome for you. You might think that your delivery of Jesus, the story of how Jesus impacted you, and the meaning your life has are not good enough for the world to know.
You might be self-conscious about delivering the Jesus into the world because you think your words might fall on deaf ears. You might sound out-of-date or on the wrong side of history for still thinking we can follow Jesus or something.
But you might have to do the impossible. You might have to be Jesus to a world that you think will reject you and him. In a world that needs 30-minute drone delivery, is drowning in consumer debt, and is underemployed and overstimulated, talking about Jesus might seem like it’s impossible. In a world with competing philosophies that promise sex, money, and power—Jesus’ simple life might seem like a drag.
And of course, if you are instantly streaming your salvation, waiting for Jesus to be born is also impossible. It takes time, and maturation, and so the process of discipleships is exactly that, a process. If you think it should happen instantly, Twitter might be better for you.
Finally, delivering Jesus hurts. You might have to suffer through the difficulty of pregnancy. The nausea, the headaches, being hungry all the time and being grossed out by everything.
That’s community living, to be honest with you. When Christ is delivered in community, conflicts with your housemates, with your friends, and with leaders are going to mound.
Building a church that’s based on discernment, mutuality, and trust is hard. We fight individualism and ask people to sacrifice of themselves in order to be more fully express our collective pregnancy and deliverance of Jesus and that’s hard. It seems impossible. Building a church that expects to meet its goals, to multiply its cells, to do its part in expanding the kingdom of God.
Being a Christian isn’t just about going to church, or something, but it’s a new life and it’s life of joy and abundance, but not one that’s not filled with thorns and personal struggles. Struggles that don’t seem to go away, desires that are never satisfied, and all of it? It’s to deliver Jesus, which is our greatest joy and calling. We feel loneliness, stress, disappointment and suffering through it all.
So, in summary, delivering Jesus is inconvenient; it feels impossible; and it hurts.
Why does anyone want to have babies again? Why should we deliver Jesus?
Mary’s responding to all of this in a way that you wouldn’t expect a teenager to. And she’s going us that no matter how inconvenient, impossible, or stressful the Gospel is, it’s worth delivering.
Here she is in the Magnificat. Mary sings the song after she’s confronting the reality that he life is about to change in a big way.
Mary is honored merely to be considered at all. The difficulty of journeying with Jesus is nothing compared to the opportunity of following Him. The work she is doing will be remembered for generations.
Ultimately, Mary is saying, the whole world is going to change because Jesus is being born in it. The work she’s doing is so crucially critical, bearing God, that all of the difficulty that comes with it pales in comparison to service to Him.
Prepare the space for Jesus to be born. Create the vacancy in your life to let Jesus grow in your. That could be an intellectual vacancy. You might need to let Jesus inform your worldview, as opposed to allowing your worldview to inform who Jesus is to you.
You might need to create a physical vacancy. Literally, consume less stuff—don’t let your materialism fill you up so that Jesus can fit into your life and so that you can’t deliver him.
You might been to create a social vacancy. Don’t fill every waking second of your life with friends and connections. Come home a day earlier from your holiday travels and be with God. Go on a retreat during the busiest time of year and see how God moves in you.
Maybe it’s an emotional vacancy. Don’t let your anxiety make decisions for you. Resist the overstimulus and try to just be calm. Feel your sadness but don’t let it overcome you.
When you have your vacancy, the space necessary to let Jesus dwell in you. Be filled. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, so you actually have something growing inside of you that you can birth. Let her influence you and guide you. Listen to her voice in community, in the Bible, in the creation, in our history.
Be filled with the hope of Jesus; know that through all of the suffering that a Christian endures, there is a bigger hope.
Be filled with Mary’s humility. Her humility to serve without rebelling. Her humility to submit to something that didn’t make a lot of sense to her.
And then push. Push yourself to be known. Let your story resonate as your narrative reflects the ultimate narrative. See your own life through the lens of Jesus. Tell the story. Let Jesus be known through your words, actions, and yourself. Let your story be unique, and part of a bigger picture.
Tell people the story and help them to feel the same hope. Mary had plenty of excuses to refuse to do it, but she didn’t. I want to have the some strength, intensity, and willingness. The same flexibility, humility, and grace. I want to be like Mary and birth Jesus like she did.
This Advent, be pregnant with Jesus like Mary was, and deliver his Good News to the world.