I wrote yesterday about the figure of Mary as we see her in the gospels, ready to say yes to the task of bringing the Christ-child into the world despite the risks she faced – including the terrifying indignity of a drawn-out and painful execution (like mother, like son, really), or the slow, soul-breaking, body-starving humiliation of ostracism and destitution. It struck me, as I thought about all these risks, that the Creator of the universe took an awfully big risk. So much could have gone so wrong.
There are so many ways in which that child might not have been born, in which the quiet intrusion of the Source of life into our world might have been thwarted. Imagine if Joseph had called for her execution, or even done as he’d originally planned and just sent her home slyly to her family. How long would her condition have remained a secret, before she was dishonoured and cast out, a young girl, pregnant and condemned, eking out an existence as a beggar or a prostitute. The chances of carrying a pregnancy to term in those conditions are so negligible as to be laughable. Not great planning, really, on the part of the Creator of all.
And then, even once that hurdle is overcome, think about all the other risks: a poor couple, alone and far from home in an occupied country, camping among the filth and warmth of animals, exhausted after their long journey, trying to deliver a baby. With fleas and lice and germs and animal shit – to say nothing of the common-or-garden-variety complications and risks of childbirth in the privations and poverty of first-century Palestine. Honestly, it’s a wonder that both mother and baby weren’t both swept away by infection or a ruptured placenta or the trauma of a breech birth or any one of a hundred things that could have gone wrong.
Again with, not really very good planning from the Force which sculpted the millions of interwoven complexities which make up our world. Nice one, God. Way to go.
And yet, somehow, it worked. Somehow the Word was made flesh: the Source of compassion, the Ground of our being, was made manifest in the darkness of a fallen world – and the darkness did not overcome it. Somehow, both mother and baby survived, the child grew to maturity, and the miracle of the incarnation was complete –
And the story will continue…