The Readings: Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 5:30-32; John 15:4-5
"Every birth is a cause for celebration." I remember hearing the words from the mouth of a 50 something woman when one of her peers shared that her unmarried daughter was pregnant. Yes. This is surely a truth for the ages - life is a blessing!
Yet it's also true that, even in the best of times, carrying new life also requires pain and sacrifice on the part of the life givers. There's that pesky child birth pain, followed by sleep deprivation, hormonal fallout, curtailment of sexual intimacy, stinking diapers, and an exponential increase in the amount of time it takes to go anywhere outside the house.
Why bother? Because life is a blessing: a blessing to nurture in the womb, bring into the world, share with serve, suffer with, rejoice with, love. A bother? Sometimes, for certain, but more so a blessing. Pain and priceless asset. Source of grief and gladness.
Of course, we're not just talking about babies. Paul's passion for the church is that Christ would be 'formed in us' and he uses a word picture to describe this that indicates our spiritual formation is like childbirth. Jesus Himself uses the similar imagery when He calls His church the "bride of Christ" and invites us to be fruitful (read, "give birth") by living in union with Him. Allowing Jesus to fill us with His life will no doubt have the effect of disrupting our lives in some very big ways.
There are two important reasons that I won't whine about all this disruption. First, the joys of fruitfulness outweigh the burdens every time. My children, now grown, plaster the walls of wherever it is that I study, write, live, because they are my great joy. And so it is with the fruit that comes about in our lives by virtue of union with Christ. Such union has meant travail, interruption, frustration, conviction, and the loss of my isolated, autonomous self. It's also meant meals, laughter, tears, and prayers, shared with new friends in far flung places around the world. It's meant healing where there was only ugliness and self-pity before. It's mean a whole new set of eyes, helping me to find joy in simple things like a sunrise, candlelight, fresh fish, a good sweater from the thrift store, and merlot with Vivaldi or Cold Play. Best of all, it's meant participating in God's story and seeing lives become more like Jesus in ways large and small. Fruit is disruptive, there's no doubt about it. Intimacy works that way. Union with Christ means the Jesus will challenge my tiny, fearful, indulgent life, asking more of me than I think I'm capable of. And this fruitful life is costly. People die every day because they love Jesus. But even those who die young would never trade a second of life united with Christ for decades of the barren altrernative.
The second, more important reason to enjoy spiritual maternity as the bride of Christ is because Jesus 'broke trial', (if you'll forgive my shift to different metaphor for a moment) by allowing Himself to be disrupted. He's the one who had the most to lose: heaven, status as deity, perfect union with God, freedom from guilt, all were tossed aside because of love, in the pursuit of intimacy with us, precisely so that His bride, the church, could become the bearer of fruit in our desparately barren world. He was disrupted first. Now it's our turn.
Does Christ live in you? How awesome is that! This is, after all, the mystery of the ages. If it's true in your life, congratulations! You're pregnant. Maybe hand out a few cigars. Throw a party. And prepare for the glorious disruption that inevitably comes as Jesus expresses life through you.