Life-giving Choices: Advent Meditation, 12/25/2012
I’ve been pondering lately, just what does it mean to make a “life-giving” choice? Does it mean to nurture relationship with others rather than focus on my own ends, no matter how noble? To acknowledge the individual-ness of others, even if it tramples on my own? How does one discern that a choice is “life-giving” and not, let’s say, “life-denying”?
It occurs to me that I can most often tell when a choice is “life-giving,” when it is also very painful.
This is my first Christmas without a grandparent – my grandfather passed away in July, and I’m still trying to deal with the strangeness of life now that I can no longer identify myself as anyone’s grandson. I spent so much time with my grandfather (“Pop Pop John,” as I called him) before he died, that sometimes I wake up with a start, realizing that the one thing I truly want most in that moment I will never have again: time again to sit at my grandfather’s side and listen to his stories. The longing is often unbearable.
The thing is, I wouldn’t be struggling with this grief and emptiness if I hadn’t moved back to North Carolina in February, if I hadn’t spent a few days a week with him for his last few months, collecting all the stories I could on my digital recorder. Ultimately, I know that my actions were “life-giving” – I made the choice that enriched both of our lives, and in doing so, I chose not to protect myself from the pain of his death and the pain of my life without him.
I look to Mary as the prime example of this. She made the ultimate life-giving act, bearing the Messiah, and for that she was shunned by her community, mistrusted by her husband, shamed, forced to give birth in the lowest of places; surviving that only to witness the brutal betrayal and murder of her son.
Is this the ultimate end of our “life-giving” choices?
I find great solace in the really human moments in the gospel, when somehow the authors managed to record an emotion so finicky and particular I know it has to be true. When Jesus is only 12, after he has run off for three days and worried his mother sick, Mary finds him teaching in the temple, and he’s impertinent with her. Astoundingly, the Gospel of Luke goes on to say, “she treasured all these things in her heart.”
Mary treasured all these things in her heart.
And that’s our solution, that’s how we keep on being “life-giving” among all the pain and suffering. We treasure those rare and fleeting moments of insight, grace, and truth that the people we miss and long for have given us. I have a lot about my grandfather to remember, so many treasures I store up in my heart. I would not have them had I not made the “life-giving” choice to be present with him in his final days.
This Christmas, before you rush in to all the holiday plans you’ve made, take time to ask Jesus, “Where are you looking to be born in my life? To which lowly and unexpected places am I meant to bear you? Who in my life needs me to make the life-giving choice this year?”
And wait, just a few more moments. (I know, it’s almost time for presents!) Make space for His answer.
Collect for Christmas Day
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 213).