I don’t have the nerve to stand up on Christmas Eve and preach about the choreography of childbirth, but I wish I did.
I wish I had the nerve to preach about Mary’s increased estrogen production, a few days before birth (estrogen that will soften her cervix, and help her blood coagulate after delivery). I wish I had the nerve to preach about Mary’s and Jesus’ pituitary glands producing oxytocin, which in turn allows Mary’s contractions to accelerate.
This story is full of echoes—most famously, Mary's song echoes Hannah's. But there is another echo: Elizabeth's praise of Mary, which gets taken up into the Hail Mary, is an echo of Deborah's song in Judges 5.
God loves everything that God made, and God loves you especially, and the only way you can avoid that love is by deliberately removing yourself from it. That is how I want to preach this Gospel on Advent 3. John the Baptist tells us that we can, in fact, separate ourselves from love, and describes some of the ways how.
In response to John’s insistence that the ax is at the root of the tree, poised to cut down trees that don’t bear good fruit, three groups ask, “If that’s so, how then shall we live?”
I once read Luke 1 on a park bench during a jazz festival. I was practicing the art of reading scripture in an unusual location to see what this reveals in a familiar text. I pictured Mary as a jazz singer.
I loved writing Wearing God in part because it allowed me to rove around archives from more or less every century of the Christian past. The biblical images for God that most (American?) churches today largely ignore were decidedly not ignored in earlier eras.
The Long Goodbye is poet Meghan O'Rourke's account of her mother's colorectal cancer and the year of mourning that followed her death. I read the book the first time through as a companion—O'Rourke's experience is eerily like my own.
The annunciation has attracted the attention of commentators for centuries. Medieval writers liked to embroider upon Luke’s bare-bones account, saying, for example, that when the angel Gabriel appeared, Mary was reading Isaiah 7, the prophet’s foretelling of the birth of Christ. Visual artists were also attracted to the scene.
Luke 1 and 2 are often described as “the Lukan infancy and childhood narratives”—the stories of Jesus’ birth and early childhood. That description is fine, but as Eugene Peterson has suggested, there is another way of framing the opening of Luke: these two chapters are a primer in prayer. Prayers saturate the first two chapters of Luke.
Elizabeth Marquardt’s book sat on my shelf for many weeks. I really wanted to read it. I had heard about her research and had been intrigued. Yet I kept avoiding actually opening the book. It does not take a shrink to tell me I was avoiding it because I didn’t want to take a look into this particular mirror.
Wander through a Jewish neighborhood or past a synagogue in late October and you will see a hut (often referred to as a booth). It will probably be less than 30 feet tall and made of plywood, with three walls. It will be decorated with leaves, gourds and bunches of grapes, possibly strung with lights. The roof will be translucent (you can see at least a few stars if you stand in the hut at night). There’s sure to be a picnic table or a card table set up inside. The hut will be a little flimsy; it might sway if the wind gets too vigorous. It will, to the uninitiated, look strange. The hut, called a sukkah in Hebrew, is a sign that the eight-day festival of Sukkot has arrived.