I’m not sure what made this year’s advent, christmas, and epiphany readings feel different, but they do. Of course, that is the beauty of God’s word. It meets us in new ways as we grow and mature.
For whatever reason, all I can imagine is Mary receiving visitors having just given birth. Perhaps I am finally far enough from the postpartum experience that I can imagine the experience of Mary.
If you read the mommy blogs, there are often lists of the “top ten things not to do when visiting a new mom.” I am pretty sure the three wisemen totally broke the rules.
The first 3 months postpartum have been referred to as the “4th trimester.” It is a time in which the baby is not really ready to be on the outside, but no longer can fit on the inside. Baby believes it is still attached to mom and it feels like it. For the new mother, it is a time of hormone regulation, eyes only for the child and physical recovery. No one tells you that because your blood volume increases during pregnancy that all the fluid has to go someplace. You sweat, you bleed, you leak milk, you cry.
I imagine Mary in the very beginning of this ‘4th trimester.’ She is learning how to nurse her baby. She is learning what keeps baby calm. She is learning what makes him cry. She is learning when he likes to sleep. She is learning how to trust her skills as a mother. She is learning how to be a partner to Joseph while also being a mother.
And then these crazy looking guys from a far away place come with gifts. Now, it is possible that the visit happened much later than those first days postpartum, but I have always imagined it as being shortly after birth.
These men came with gifts. Frankincense, gold, and Myrrh. Myrrh was an oil utilized at death. Can you imagine, a new mother receiving embalming fluid as she snuggles her new born in the hospital room? I am pretty sure I would have thrown those visitors out of my room. No thanks.
Mary has trusted God through out pregnancy and trusts through out this strange visit.
And then I wonder:
Did the wisemen tell Mary that King Herod wanted her son dead? Did she know so soon that her child was to die? Did she know how quickly she would be fleeing for safety?
There is an organization that is donating baby carriers to refugee families from Syria as they arrive in Europe. The families will walk miles and stand in many lines. It is a way to provide a small gift that will make life just a bit easier.
There was a story of a family that was approached. They were clearly carrying a young baby. It became clear that the baby was less than a week old. They had fled their home and given birth while traveling to safety. During the precious new born time, they were looking for new life. During this time they were dependent on so many others for their safety.
The family was approached with a gift. The wisemen found them in their inn.
All of this is hard. The deep desire of a parent to provide safety for a child. The deep desire for relationship with God. And in the midst of all the pain and suffering, God came as a tiny baby. This is the incarnation, God became flesh and dwelt among us.
But, you know, I find Mary more convincing of God incarnate. She bled, sweated, leaked, and cried. She was hormonal and new to mothering. She was raw and vulnerable as only a new mother can be. God showed up. God showed up for her to nurture God in all God’s vulnerability.
I can only imagine Mary as a messy, postpartum mama. It gives me courage that God knows what it means to be human. God was cuddled, nursed, sung to, and cried over by a human mother.
God came to a mama who would need to flee to safety. God came to a mama who would receive strange visitors. God came to a mama who was poor.
God came and sat in her lap. That is the incarnation.
God comes to you in your mess too.
Keep hope alive!