{ an excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s post yesterday – When Christmas Stretches You… }

Shalom, she counts the holes of our spiral Advent wreath, the candlelit evenings we have already passed.

“All these nights of waiting…” She methodically counts the remaining carved cups for candles. “And just…1, 2, 3…  four more nights and Mary will be in Bethlehem!”

She’s clenches her hands in giddy glee and it’s not about waiting for gifts, but waiting for the Child.

She turns and says to me knowingly, her head slightly tilted, her nod and smile so certain, “I know it didn’t take her 24 nights to really go to Bethlehem. It’s just the way we count the waiting... right, Caleb?”

“Yep.” Caleb’s rocking chair creaks.

He leans forward to straighten one of the candles. “Did you move Mary a bit closer, Shalom?”

It’s when she reaches for the wooden figure of Mary that I remember.

I see the swelling silhouette of Mary there on the back of the donkey and the starkness of it strikes me, what it really means to be a womb.

Mary’s distended.

Her skin is pulled taut.

Her belly swells round and her abdomen bulges and she is drawn to the outer rim of herself.

Mary’s stretched.

To be a dwelling place of God, a womb for Christ, means to be extended, taken to one’s outer edges… stretched.

To be a womb for God means there will be stretchmarks.

This season of Advent may hurt. I may feel weary. These days may not be easy. This is the how God may be growing within me.

I reach out and touch Mary full with Child and I hurt in the knowing: A true Christmas, one that God indwells, will experience pangs and pain.

Kids will cry and siblings will bicker and relationships will grow taut and there will be days where nothing goes right and the season rather dissolves into one sloppy, muddy puddle.

And this Christmas, I’ll be stretched thin and I will feel myself asked to love to the furthest edges of myself, asked to extend grace to the outermost reaches — because how else can I grow full and large and round with God?

To be a womb for Christ, I’ll feel my inner walls, my boundaries, stretch.

Stretching the shape of a soul hurts.


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