December 23, 2009

God's Borning

            We are almost there; the Advent pilgrimage of longing and waiting nears its destination. The texts and songs of the season fill us with hope and wonder, and tomorrow we move from expectation to the Nativity.  We usually think of how we can prepare for the coming of the child; however, perhaps we should think in fresh ways of God’s eagerness to be with us.

            One of my favorite books is a small collection of reflections on icons of the Virgin by Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury entitled Ponder These Things. One of the icons, the Mother of God of Vladimir, departs from the usually stern pictures of the child (a miniature adult, making a papal sign, suggesting that he did not have to wet his diaper unless he chose to do so!) In this icon the child is impatiently pressing against his mother, trying to get as close to her as possible. “…the child Christ embraces Mary, cheek to cheek, his arm encircles her neck, one foot is thrust towards us as if he is pushing himself up against her body with great energy…”  Shameless in affection, the child will not be separated from the one he loves. Pressing, stroking, delighted in our presence, God seeks to get into our arms, our hearts. Williams asks us to consider that this is how God hungers to love us.

The early church father Origen urged returning such affection to God: “Let us too stand in the Temple and hold God’s Son and embrace him…let us pray to God, the all-powerful, and to the little Jesus himself, whom we so much want to speak to and hold in our arms.” God wants to be held, and we long to hold. In Christ, God makes this possible. The Christ has come so very near as to be one of us. The contemporary hymn, “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry,” depicts God’s intimate presence from birth to the “evening” of our lives, always accompanying our steps. The borning cry of our God comes in the newborn Jesus, and by grace we follow his steps. Let us welcome the one who will not remain at a distance from us, but offers eager embrace.

Molly T. Marshall

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