All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Last week, we were introduced to a new set of Christmas ghosts, a very different trio than that which Dickens had in mind. Let’s move deeper into celebrating God With Us by fixing our eyes on the second spirit: the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Her surroundings could not be set in starker contrast to her figure. Hair free and wild, she sways through a barren field heavy with life. Winter settles in quiet, but spring is in her step. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a soon-to-be mama, bending back and forth between pain and hope, a bending we know so well.
This is our natural state as believers caught east of the manger and west of glory. We live in the “now and not yet,” sure of the joy set before us but fighting toward it through a broken world. The past few weeks seem to have been especially hard on people around here—the effects of sin are sometimes easier to see than the redemption being worked out. Creation grits its teeth and bellows once more.
I’ve never witnessed a woman in labor, but I don’t imagine it’s a pretty scene. Sweat. Forced breathing. Guttural cries. No holding back, no care for appearances, no decorum. All else is shoved aside but this: the outcome. After growing and preparing for months, the time has arrived to bring forth something new into the world.
This version of Christmas doesn’t have songs written about her. She doesn’t quite fit in with the slick, commercialized cultural god we prefer: fat, happy old treat-bearers who reward our best behavior. The joyful discomfort of perpetual expansion isn’t exactly our standard of beauty.
But wrapping our arms around her—around ourselves, right where we are in this messy, beautiful gospel story—will allow us to really live. She is the more real of the two versions of Christmas Present. Santa breaks down at the point of my need, only able to point out my flaws and assigning me to the naughty list until I can get my act together next year. Or overlooking wrongs and making a mockery of justice. This almost-mama has looked the point of my need dead in the eyes and called down strength and grace to cover it, fiercely clinging to the power of the cross. I choose her over the shallow, shiny, silly spirit of Christmas we’ve concocted and put up for sale two days before Halloween. I throw my lot in with her, bear down, and share her groaning.
Here we are, heavy with the burden of glory. Waiting.