Monday, November 27, 2017

A Child is Born - Advent Reflections starting Dec 1

At the heart of the Christmas story is an act of childbirth. Without it, there would be no story. That is so obvious that it may seem as if it hardly needs saying, but it seems to me that we often focus so much on the specialness of the child in question that we miss the fact that his arrival in the world was absolutely normal and ordinary, something every one of us has been through. There is no other way into the world.

One born every minute?
Unicef statistics say that there are, in fact, 255 babies born every minute – 367200 a day - and the Gospel accounts say nothing to suggest that Jesus’ birth was any different in essence from any of those.  Legends grew up fairly quickly about his birth, however, and by the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that Mary gave birth to him miraculously, without pain or effort. He somehow just popped out! This is pure wishful thinking, but it is wishful thinking which robs the Gospel of its Good News. If this mother and child were immune to the pain, risk and emotion of childbirth, then how can Christ be one of us, fully human as well as fully God? What good news can there be for today’s parents and children? What good news can there be for any of us, because we are all somebody’s child?

Stories of childbirth
That’s why, this Advent, I will be focussing on Biblical stories about the birth of children. I will be asking how they help us to think about what it means to be a child or a parent today. It won’t all be comfortable reading – there’s not much that is cute or sentimental about these Biblical births – but it will take us through some of the very best and most powerful stories the Bible has to tell, and prepare us for the arrival in Bethlehem of the child who was born to bring us “life in all its fullness.”  (John 10.10)

There will be 24 reflections in the series, covering almost all the stories about childbirth in the Bible. Each reflection starts with a Bible reference, which I suggest you look up and read in your own Bible. There are also some questions and a suggestion for prayer. 

A note on the treatment of women in the stories of the Bible

As you read these stories, you may be shocked at how powerless the women in them are and how badly they are sometimes treated. Does this mean that the Bible is a misogynistic, nasty document, which should be consigned to the dustbin? It’s understandable that many people think so.

It’s important to remember, though, that the Bible was written in a world which generally regarded women as inferior, and in which life was often precarious and brutal. It should be no surprise that the Bible often reflects this. What’s remarkable is that women’s voices and experiences are recorded at all. We often miss the fact that simply by telling their stories the Bible challenges the inhuman way they are sometimes treated. It shines a spotlight on their sufferings, but also on their hopes and dreams. The Biblical writers see and acknowledge women, and in doing that proclaims that God does too.

We are sometimes shocked by what we are reading,. It is often the Biblical writers’ intention that we should be. These stories bring women to the centre of the stage. The question they ask us is “whose voices are you not hearing today? Whose suffering do you overlook?”

No comments:

Post a Comment