Impossible Birth

December 21, 2019

 

“O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears

                                                                   Rejoice! Rejoice!”


At this year’s UN Climate Action Summit, Greta Thunberg had a message for our world’s leaders. “How dare you!” she thundered with chilling prophetic force. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

 

I heard an echo of God’s words through Isaiah to our world. “Earth is polluted by its very own people, who have broken its laws, disrupted its order, violated the sacred and eternal covenant. Therefore a curse, like cancer, ravages the earth. It’s people play the price of their sacrilege. They dwindle away, dying out one by one.”[1]
 

The current global crisis is both new and very, very old. And God’s big heart pounds for justice, to restore our peace with God, each other, and creation.
 

In the beginning God created humanity to be God-imaged, to rule and subdue the earth by partaking in God’s work of filling darkness with light and gardening abundant goodness from the formless and empty to share with all. Yet in a blink humanity rejected God and got busy ruling and subduing each other, bleeding darkness into all earths corners. Fast-forward millennia and human ill-rule has reached such a point of global crisis that a vast scientific consensus warn that the current economies of the industrialised world are set to collapse earth’s ecosystem.
 

For over 65,000 years Australia’s Traditional Custodians stewarded this ‘sunburnt country’  as a sacred land of wondrous plenty. Yet as I write, Australia burns unprecedented due to unparalleled hot and dry, while our government refuses an Indigenous voice to parliament, champions the coal industry, calls climate campaigners anarchists, and clamps down on the right to peaceful protest.
 

Are you angry? Angry that those with the power to bring about systematic change seem intent to pillage our earth into a moonscape of lack? Do you look on the endemic injustices within our world with a deep sense of grief? Is God immobilised? Do you fear your future will be dissembled regardless of your efforts to fruitfully labour? “Why Kingdom build on a tidal beach?” I wrote in part of my Advent poem in 2016. “Exile is eating my soul alive. I want to see Jerusalem reborn, not stand in Babylon whispering prayers west while watching lions being added to the pit.”
 

Advent embraces this grief. Advent is a season dedicated to expectant waiting for Jesus. Israel waited for Jesus, waited for the promised Messiah to replace rife injustice with God’s eternal righteous rule. In grief, in suffering, in weariness, in bleakness, in 400 hundred years silence from God, Israel’s faithful waited. We also wait. We await Jesus’ second arrival. In suffering, in weariness, in bleakness, we wait. But while Advent holds space for anger and despair at our world’s relentless brokenness, it also reminds us to relentlessly hold space for impossible birth.

Sarah waited, womb empty. God’s old promise that she would birth a nation to outnumber the stars pushed from her mouth a bitter laugh. Did creation also groan in fear that the promised serpent-crushing child would never be? God’s promise to rescue and restore humanity through Sarah’s child appeared empty words, a failed dream. Holding her baby Sarah laughed again. She had witnessed impossible birth.
 

Hannah waited, womb empty. Without a son her future was stolen. Hannah’s world was a ruin. She was part of the people God had grown from Sarah and planted in a new land of abundance, a people God had made a home with in the tabernacle, a people central to God’s plan to rescue all creation, a people again rejecting God and mirroring not a new Eden but a living nightmare.  Yet Hannah trusted in God as the source of life and goodness, and in time would mother the prophet that Israel would need to guide their next steps in God’s plan of rescue. And Hannah sings, she proclaims the gospel of a God who flips brokenness upside down. God who frees slaves, feeds the hungry, fills the empty. Hannah knew God brings impossible birth.
 

Mary waited, womb impossibly filled. Mary lived in an Israel conquered by a wave after wave of brutal tyrannical powers. Mary waited to birth the serpent-crusher. Mary waited to birth the Messiah king. Mary waited to birth God. Joyfully, Mary sings of her God of great reversals and renewals, her God of impossible birth.
 

Martha waited, her brother’s grave full. Martha waited for Jesus. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she proclaimed, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
 

We wait, still in exile from Eden yet walking with God. Jesus has arrived. God is here. Sin was paid for and the new creation seeded with Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ followers share his rebirth. Yet Jesus is yet to return to complete this renewal.
 

We wait in this overlap between Jesus’ two arrivals. An age Jesus described as childbirth. I imagine transition, where your cervix must complete its dilatation to the magic ten centimetres. The steady pump of contractions turns into one bomb exploding. Pain blinds. Hardship is guaranteed to Christ’s followers, but so is new life. Yet inside Christ we are not only a new people being birthed, we are also midwives of this impossible birth. We seed rebirth as we live rebirthed.
 

Our waiting for Jesus is active labour. God’s promise of rescue and renewal is never an excuse for passiveness, but waters of justice and righteous to be travelled by the reborn. Our labour appears doomed yet we trust in a God of impossible birth.
 

Sarah Bessey writes a list of what this work of bringing God’s justice and righteousness to the world may look like: writing letters, showing up prepared for meetings, writing manuals, enacting policy, making phone calls, voting, protesting, fundraising, having hard conversations face-to-face, cleaning bathrooms, running for the council seat or the elder board or the strata council or the board of directors, making a plan, creating budgets, filing paperwork, feeding people, holding the powerful accountable, researching the truth, training others well, writing policy and procedures to protect the vulnerable, tithing every single month in one direction, consistency of presence, and listening well.  All messy midwife work which seed into today outposts of the new creation which will last eternally.
 

Sarah, Hannah, Mary, Martha—we join their tears and laughter, their belief in the impossible, their gospel proclamations and God breathed resistance songs.
 

Change seems impossible, from change in weather to break droughts and quell fires, to the change of hearts needed to move towards a liveable future. Yet God hasn’t changed. Impossible birth remains God’s plan for all creation. God’s words are never empty. God’s dreams can’t be stolen. God’s desires will be our forever reality.
 

The Hebrew word for waiting is Qavah—literally to pull a cord tight to a point of tension and anticipate its certain release. Qavah also translates as hope.

 

 

 

[1] Excerpt from Isaiah 24:5-13 The Message

 

 Hello, I’m Laura Tharion, and I am passionate about spreading the joy and wonder to be found in living a resurrected life inside Jesus Christ. I enjoy tea, cake, history, hammocks, wild bushland, gardening, reading, and gifting my favourite books into the hands of others. I had the pleasure of studying at Sydney Missionary and Bible College before my three lovely little boys arrived to fill my days. Here I picked up the pet soap-boxes of mission advocacy and teaching the Bible as one unified story. I have a heart to write—sermons, studies, articles, meditations, poetry, and epic novels, all which aim to explore theology and encourage everyone to fully realise all they have been given and commissioned in Christ. 

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