O, Emmanuel: A child is born…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:5

We’ve been waiting. We have been practicing patience. Our friend Mary is 40 weeks along and ready to give birth. It’s game-on mode. There’s been this business of the census and all the crazy travel in the past weeks –Joseph trying to secure accommodations. And here we are: Christmas.

In my prayer this past 24 hours, I am fixated on the details of birth. I keep imagining Mary going into labor. Her belly squeezing; the uterine muscles contracting, and someone rubbing her lower back. I imagine her pacing, perhaps walking the circumference of the room, or making laps outside her birthing space. Maybe it’s still daylight. It’s hot, the roads are dusty, that one little lamb flanks her heels as she paces. He knows.

I keep remembering my own labor and delivery– getting checked into St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul, being wheeled to my room; walking the length of the corridor in hopes of furthering the process of cervical dilation, and the ultimate next step…

Giving birth is an experience that every parent is intimately familiar with.

“..the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”Luke 2:6-7

Can you enter into the details? I invite you to imagine what is between these two lines in Luke’s gospel: “the time came,” and “she gave birth.”

Mary’s water breaks. She is fully effaced and dilated. Jesus moves down into the birth canal. Mary pushes. And breathes. And pushes. Someone is holding her hand. That sheep is bleating in the back ground. And finally: he is born!

What Luke doesn’t fully describe are some of the richest aspects of this narrative; the imagined details are what hold HOPE for me. God doesn’t avoid the birth canal. He comes to us through this very real, human process by which we all arrive: labor, groaning, a physical expansion, birth.

***

Everywhere I turn these days, the gritty hope of birth is close at hand. Labor, groaning, expansion are bound up in the reality of the mundane, the tragic, the inexplicable, and the awesome. With our “O, Emmanuel” chant, hope accompanies all maneuvering, listening, and digesting of the day’s reality.

The Syrian refugees at the border. O Emmanuel. The Black Lives Matter marchers at the Mall and Airport. O Emmanuel. The presidential candidates sharing their political position on immigration. O Emmanuel. The police officers trying to keep us safe. O Emmanuel. The CEO trying to discern responsible environmental standards. O Emmanuel. The public school teacher seeking stillness in the face of the fall curriculum. O Emmanuel. The frustrated, hungry, angry boy open to the jihadist’s message. O Emmanuel. Earth herself turning on her axis with her changing atmosphere. O Emmanuel.

As we mark this hour of the Incarnation unfolding, I invite you to consider the gritty details of birth before you. Where is God entering in your life? What labor pains are present in your circumstances?  How is physical expansion palpable in your circles? What headlines invoke your song of chant and praise: “O, Emmanuel”?

O, Emmanuel: a child is born to us this day!

 

The Work of Christmas Begins…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

It’s a shut down day at the monastery. The guests have gone home. We’ve bustled — been on the move in a monastic fervor this past Advent and ongoing Christmas season. We’ve rung in the New Year.  And now we rest. Or now, according to poet, Civil Rights activist and theologian, Dr. Howard Thurman, the work of Christmas really begins….

This piece has traction in my heart this day. Perhaps it will speak to you, too? I’m posting it as text, and in a special a cappella version arranged by Dan Forrest. 

The Work of Christmas Begins.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

–by Dr. Howard Thurman

Prepare, prepare for Christmas!

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

O What a Morn! Christmas brings out the child in each of us. May you know its wonder, feel its warmth, and share its love. Christmas Blessings! By Brother Mickey McGrath

O What a Morn! Christmas brings out the child in each of us. May you know it's wonder, feel it's warmth, and share it's love. Christmas Blessings! By Brother Mickey McGrath

Each Christmas it becomes more clear to me that this holiday is all about relationship, much like Elizabeth and mary’s Visitation!

Christmas is about remembering, about thinking, about preparing for those we love near and far, those known to us, our neighbors, our families. The “stuff” that surrounds Christmas, if done at all, is about saying “I know what you like and because I love you I have taken time to think about what you might derive joy from and prepare it for you to receive.”

So Christmas is both about giving, and in giving, we empty our hands to receive what others prepare with us in their minds and hearts. Therefore Christmas becomes a true discernment of our relationships with others. And whether or not material gifts are given, when we approach Christmas with the Visitation Spirit of relationship the joy and spirit of the holiday leaps from our hearts much like Mary and Elizabeth felt their babies leap in joy at the recognition of one another! May we approach the Christ child with such recognition, such relationship and such joy as we wait in excited anticipation of his birth this week!

  • What relationships are you cradling in your arms this Chirtsmas?
  • Who are you preparing for?
  • How does this prepare your own heart for the Christ Child?