What Power in the Womb

It’s probably bad form for a pastor to post her “first thoughts” about Sunday’s scripture passages on Thursday night. I know I should be well past the “first thoughts” stage by now . . . but it’s been one of those weeks.

Here’s part of what we read this Sunday from Isaiah: “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; / with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”

And from Matthew’s gospel: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

And yet, in the chronological narrative of Advent, we are about a month away from the birth of Jesus. He is a developing fetus in the womb of an unwed Jewish girl.

This is a detail from a paper collage and ink piece that I made for Advent last year.

He does not hold a rod or a winnowing fork; instead his little perfect hands are floating aimlessly around in the amniotic fluid. He is not in a position to judge or slay anybody; instead, he is wholly dependent on the nutrients flowing to him from Mary through the umbilical cord.

In an article in Christian Century magazine (Oct. 19, 2010), Miroslav Volf claims that “God is by definition inviolable. Human beings are not. To be human is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the essential condition of human life.”

Now, those of us who toe the theological line drawn at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 believe that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. So where does that leave us in these darkening days of Advent?

It leaves us in the heart of the paradox: serving the omnipotent helpless One; seeking the eternal temporal One; following the inviolable One made vulnerable for our salvation.

On our lips is Mary’s question to Gabriel: How can this be?

May our hearts ring with the answer: Nothing is impossible with God.

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