I love the story of Mary’s unassisted homebirth of Jesus. The Nativity is a rarity in our culture where birth is almost universally pathologized. Instead, Jesus’ birth story is presented simply: It is time. Mary and Joseph find shelter. Surrounded by the animals and the angels, Jesus is born. No drugs, no emergency, no professionals required. The implication, it seems, is that there is nothing to worry about, because Mary is in the presence of God. I have found this to be true in my own birth experience. Surrender.
In my interpretation of Christmas, Mary is every woman, then and now. And of course, every pregnant woman feels the vast, crushing, unknowable, precious and deadly future. Pregnancy is always a mystery. Even in our time of gadgets and doodads and buttons and wires, no one knows. And no mother is ever prepared for the strangeness of growing a child; the ambivalence of it, or the profound, heart-wrenchingly overwhelming love she feels for her baby when she is born. Pregnancy and birth always, I think, take us to another place; a distant land.
Mary’s virginity–her purity–is symbolic. The immaculate conception is a reversal which requires depth of understanding for a compassionate and useful reading: despite the fact that Mary and Joseph have transgressed their culture’s mores by conceiving a child out of wedlock, Mary is specifically blessed by God and chosen to bear the anointed one, a holy child. I feel strongly that the significance of the virgin birth points to the idea that the strictures of society do not define divinity, and that sex is sacred, and that we are *all* chosen by the Great Spirit. Every mother is “pure”. And every single child is holy, anointed, and chosen by all the forces of creation that we know and do not know.
I used to feel conflicted about religion and belief, to some degree. My family is Anglican, with large doses of Pagan spirituality, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism and a sprinkling of Baha’i. In my adulthood, I have mostly described myself as being agnostic, but this doesn’t seem quite right anymore. I believe very profoundly in Spirit, and this belief is clear and wide.
The Anglican (Episcopalian) church, for me, represents my history and my family. I love the structure of the old Anglican church service, and the combination of the remote, rather impersonal liturgy, with the transcendent music provides, for me, a container for which I can find personal and private contemplation with the divine. The widespread evisceration of the traditional Anglican church service and liturgy by well-meaning people who are hoping to attract more young people, is, to me, totally and tragically misplaced. Instead, the church should be looking to enhance the aspects of its services that set it apart from other denominations. The music, for example. I was flabbergasted and dismayed when I was told, after asking why there isn’t a choir at the Gagetown Anglican church, that the church doesn’t really need a choir, and that a couple of years before, the choir pews had been ripped out of the sanctuary, as they were unnecessary…
Anyway. We did attend the Christmas Eve church service right here in Queenstown. I won’t go into details, but Horus and Treva were utterly appalling, and the evening ended with a bang, because as we were walking down the aisle after the Eucharist, these two managed to knock over the five burning candles of the official church advent wreath. Yes, the church is still standing. I’m chalking up the crazy behaviour to excitement over Santa Claus’ impending arrival.
For the record: Yes. I believe in Santa Claus. I have never stopped believing in Santa Claus. In my mid-teens, my understanding of what Santa Claus is all about shifted slightly, gently, holistically. But it makes me so sad to hear about those who have clearly missed the point. The “truth” about Santa Claus, is that he is very much alive, and oh so very real, and that he has many helpers all over the world. Proud to be of service.
Thank you, darling husband, for letting me sleep in a little bit this morning. We had so much fun. Shells and bells and books and chocolate. A ragged robe of rabbit skin, single-malt Scotch, a doll, and a GT Snow-Racer (It’s a New Brunswick thing; a maritime thing; a Canadian thing). Lee took everyone sliding, and they had a *ridiculously* good time. I am making my father’s EggNog with honey, we have Cornish Game Hens in the oven, sweet potatoes, and a beautiful grain-free Christmas pudding which we’ll light on fire with aplomb.
Merry Christmas, everyone.