Draw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave BaabA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthThe Power of ListeningDeath in Dunedin: A NovelJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeA Renewed SpiritualityFriending

Lynne's Blog

These are a few of my favorite things for the Christmas season

Wednesday December 30 2015

These are a few of my favorite things for the Christmas season

1. I “met” this poem when I was in my twenties, and it has remained my favorite Christmas poem: Mary’s Song by Lucy Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

2. Another favorite is the song, “Mary, did you know?” Here’s an intriguing version of it by Peter Hollen.

3. And here’s a new favorite, an email I received from Arise (Christians for Biblical Equality in Australia). It was written by Bronwen Speedie, the founder of the Western Australian-based ministry, God’s Design-Perth, which seeks to bring clarity, healing, and encouragement through the biblical message of the equality of men and women. She is the author of a Bible study and resource kit about biblical equality titled, Men and Women: God’s Design. She quoted from the song, “Mary did you know?” Then she wrote:

This led me to wonder what other things Mary may have pondered, hoped for, and even worried about. How might Mary’s own experience—as an unmarried, pregnant young woman in a cultural dichotomy of honor and shame—have shaped the questions she asked? With this in mind, I’ve added my own questions to those in the song. (Don’t try to sing along—I haven’t kept to the constraints of the tune.)

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, in whose face relatives will look for your chin or Joseph’s nose, is the creator from whom all humans are made?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, the fruit of a pregnancy that local gossips considered a sinful stain on your character, will one day protect a woman from similar judgments? That he will turn the stones intended to kill a woman caught in adultery into tools to convict her accusers of their own sins?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will lift the heads of countless women? That in opposition to the patriarchy of his culture, he will accept the touch of a menstruating woman, seek to protect the rights of women cast away in divorce, and reject service within the household as a woman’s sole or primary function?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, whom you now nurse at your breast, is the Bread of Life, and that all who believe in him will never hunger or thirst again?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, who will learn the Tanakh at the feet of the local rabbis with other boys, will open up the study of Scripture to women like yourself, encouraging them to learn at his feet as disciples?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will not reveal his identity as Messiah to the male authorities of Israel, but will first announce this good news to a despised Samaritan woman?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will inspire women over the course of two thousand years to exchange society’s restrictions for God’s calling?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, whom you now wrap in swaddling clothes, will one day leave his folded grave clothes in an empty tomb?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will choose as his witnesses, and the first to be sent out with the message of his resurrection, a group of “mere” women?

Mary, did you know that your own faithfulness to God’s calling will play a key role in bringing a savior into the world who will set women free?

 

Last December's Christmas posts:
     Upside-down Christmas
     Bringing my whole self to the manger

(If you'd like to receive and email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Bringing my whole self to the manger

Saturday December 20 2014

Bringing my whole self to the manger

(On her Godspace blog, Christine Sine has an Advent series this year answering the questions: Who do I want to bring to the manger? Who might otherwise be excluded? Here's what I wrote in response to her invitation. The photo is my husband, Dave, on a Christmas hike in Dunedin, New Zealand, on the top of Flagstaff, 666 meters or 2185 feet.)

Who do I want to bring to the manger this Christmas? Who might otherwise be excluded or ignored? Here’s my somewhat odd answer: my body.

Of course, my body isn’t actually separate from myself, but sometimes it feels like it is. Part of that comes from the Christian emphasis on spiritual things. Our redemption in Christ often seems to be more focused on our souls and spirits rather than on our bodies. Another part of my sense of separation from my body comes from my struggles with weight my whole life, which have often contributed to a view of my body as a bit of an enemy rather than as a beloved part of myself.

My conviction that Advent and Christmas are a good time to focus on the significance of our bodies in God’s grand story comes from living in the Southern Hemisphere for the past few years. This Advent is my seventh in New Zealand.

I come from Seattle, where Advent evenings are pitch dark before 5 pm. Here in Dunedin during December, there is still light in the sky at 10 pm. In New Zealand, the red and green colors of Christmas take new forms: strawberries, local zucchini and red peppers cooked together, and lettuce from our garden paired with bright red tomatoes. These are healthy, light foods. Favorite activities of New Zealanders during Advent and Christmas include walking on beaches and hiking in the mountains, sailing and surfing, gardening and strolling among the roses in the Botanic Garden. Here, our physical bodies are not smothered in heavy sweaters and down coats during Advent and Christmas. Bodies seem alive and real this time of year, nurtured by healthy food and lots of physical activity.

At first, a Christmas season full of long, sunny days seemed very weird indeed. I know people in Florida experience sunshine at Christmas, but I seldom had. I missed the candles in the dark evenings, and all that imagery of Jesus as the light shining in the darkness. I missed that sense of hunkering down inside with delicious smells of cooking in the background and green and red decorations in the house. Now the red and green show up in healthy foods, and we focus on the beauty of the light outside and all the growing things we can see from our window even in the evening.

I have come to see the new pattern as a gift, a part of my growth in bringing my whole self, including my body, to Christ in worship and submission. When we think of the incarnation, we remember that Jesus took on flesh in order to redeem us. He didn’t want to redeem just our souls and spirits. Our bodies are an integral part of our selves, and therefore an integral part of our redemption. I celebrate that reality much more profoundly at Advent in the Southern Hemisphere than I ever did up north.

As I walk among the December roses, I remember that God made those gorgeous blooms, just like God made my body, soul and spirit. At this time of celebrating the incarnation, remembering the beauty of creation helps remind me why the incarnation was necessary. Truly I long to return to the purity of what God made, before all that beauty was marred by sin. Truly my whole self – body, soul and spirit – is broken and needs redemption in Jesus.

Yes, this year I want to bring my body to the manger, to bow in worship and surrender, giving my whole self to Jesus.

(If you'd like to become a subscriber to this blog, which means you'll receive an email every time I post something, sign up in the right hand column.)