Advent Message from the United Church Moderator

Bringing God Into the World

Gary PatersonIn his Advent message, Moderator Gary Paterson invites us to think about whether Mary is the invitation for each one of us to bring forth new life and to be open to the Spirit.

Watch the message here:


Transcript of Videotaped Message

In the Protestant tradition, Mary has often been downplayed, but still she calls on our imaginations, especially in the Christmas season, when we remember a young girl, startled by the visit of the angel with the message about pregnancy; the moment when Mary says yes to God; the wild rejoicing of the Magnificat; the long journey to Bethlehem; no room at the inn; giving birth in the stable; visits by shepherds and wise men; and the final image of Mary pondering all these things in her heart.

Mary, there she is, in stained glass glory and here, more humbly, carved in olivewood from Palestine, here in the stable watching over her newborn baby. Now, the Greek Orthodox have a special term for Mary: Theotokos. Theo, of course, meaning God, and tokos, meaning, well, giving birth, or bringing forth, bearing, carrying, as if Mary were the one who, through her flesh, brings forth God into the world. There is an ancient hymn of praise for Mary that claims that she offered space for the uncontained God.

I wonder if Mary is the invitation for each one of us to bring forth new life, to be open to the Spirit, to become pregnant well, with God, ourselves. I recall the words of a German mystic from the 14th century, Meister Eckhart, who said, “Of what use is it if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago if I am not also giving birth to God in my time, in my place. We are all Mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Now, that’s a thought worth pondering. I mean, what would it mean to give birth to God? Maybe that’s the deep meaning of incarnation—not only God in Jesus, but the uncontained Holy One asking for space in the lives of each one of us. The moment when God is waiting for our yes to the movement of the Holy Spirit so that it might find root room in our heart, so that we might become pregnant with hope and faith; where we might be ready for the long, slow, steady growth of possibility in the womb; ready for hard labour and bringing forth, giving birth to compassion and love, to peace and justice; where our hands and feet, our hearts and minds will become channels of God’s love in the world. Though, that may come in unexpected ways, like a Saviour who arrives as a little baby in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Let me finish with just a few words from another German mystic, Angelus Silesius, who says, “If in our hearts we make a manger for his birth, then God will once again become a child on earth”. That’s worth repeating. If in our hearts we make a manger for His birth, then once again God will become a child on earth.

So, this Christmas, think about what it might mean for you to become pregnant with hope and love, and maybe give birth so that you, and all of the world, will know the deep meaning of Merry Christmas.

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