by Rev. M Barclay
Do you remember the first time you met your kid, your younger sibling, your godkid, your niece or nephew, your grandkid, or the newborn kiddo of a close friend?
The preparation is long and rarely do they come as a surprise but still, somehow, that first glimpse of the anticipated new life, in its strange, vulnerable, powerful infant stage, can take a breath away:
“You’re really here.”
That slow blinking while still waking up to the world. (It’s a lot to take in!)
The most ordinary of miracles, this tiny, new, entirely dependent creature.
Over 353,000 new babies are born every day across the globe: in the midst of war, in the middle of crisis, during job loss, while grieving the loss of a beloved, on borders, and in countries like this one ridden with white supremacy, sexism, ableism and other horrors.
Today, in the midst of all the wonders and terrors that won’t pause for anything, a few breaths, here and there, will be taken away by the first glimpse, first cry, first embrace of a new little one. Not despite the world still spinning, but right there in the mix of it all.
There’s something about new life, the way its becoming is a combination of the hardest work and entirely outside of anyone’s control, that calls us back to believing in the possibilities of God.
The story of Advent is a story of working to create new life right in the middle of monumental challenges and impossible odds. The future is as unclear for many people today as it was for Mary, for her family, for those struggling under the reign of Herod. And like Mary and her family, so many on Christmas Eve will still be looking for community, still be searching for a place to rest, still be wondering where they can turn for their basic needs to be met…
The longings will not all be resolved when the baby arrives…
But for a moment, Mary and her family, despite every challenge and all the world’s wonders and terrors still swirling, will bring new life to bear.
That, in and of itself, is indeed God enfleshed.
If the story stopped there, wouldn’t it be enough?
There is a deep and profound sacredness to the absolute ordinariness of the story of Jesus that can get lost in the season.
A new life, birthed from struggle and grace, inviting awe that breaks open possibilities in the midst of a world full of ache and chaos.
We each carry the potential to birth something new together that breaks open possibility in the most ordinary miraculous ways, not despite all that’s happening around us but right here in the middle of it.
We birth possibilities and God takes on flesh. In wiggling babies. In words of vulnerability. In reaching out. In creating art. In healing relationships. In pursuing justice. In standing in the way of violence.
It won’t all change at once.
But one breathtaking moment at a time, one glimpse of the Sacred manifest, one new possibility breaking open in the midst of it all just might be enough to save us.
Let us not grow weary in the labor. We keep working and loving and disrupting and proclaiming, living with faith that one day soon, with awe and wonder we will say of God once again, against all odds and in the most pressing of circumstances, “you’re really here.”
Rev. M Barclay is a United Methodist deacon serving as Director of enfleshed. M formerly served as Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network, advocating for queer and trans justice in The UMC. They have also enjoyed working as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate and faith coordinator for reproductive justice in Texas. As a queer and trans minister, M is passionate about writing, teaching, and preaching on finding the Sacred in the people, places, and ideas we might otherwise overlook.