Meredith Stone: Preaching Pregnant in Advent

           When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was working on a Master’s degree and my husband was serving on a church staff in a small rural community. As the minister’s spouse, who happened to also self-identify as a called minister, I sought ways to be a part of the ministry of the church in whatever place was open to me. One of those places in that particular church was the worship ministry.  So in 2003 on the Sunday before Christmas, I was asked to pull my massively pregnant self up the stairs to the platform during the service, read Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55, and then sing a solo. In other words, I was asked to be the surrogate Mary.

            While the service that day didn’t include an examination of what being birth-er and nurturer to the Christ-child meant, the people in that church were given a meaningful snapshot of Jesus’ mother.  Sometimes Jesus’ miraculous birth makes us forget about the tangible details.  Jesus was an actual human being who grew inside of a woman.  Mary did carry him in her belly for nine months and he grew from tiny embryo to fetus inside of her.  She had to think about what she ate and the activities she engaged in so that she could be sure to nurture this tiny creature into a fully functioning human being. Mary’s womb was the first minister to the Christ as it provided a place for the baby human Jesus to grow.    

It was with this picture of the pregnant Mary that I approached my second pregnancy-filled Christmas season in 2007. By then I was serving on a local church staff as a Teaching Pastor and one of my responsibilities was to coordinate worship and preach during Advent.  So when one of the lectionary passages for the third Sunday of Advent that year was Luke 1:46-55, I just knew that, again, I brought a unique perspective into reading Mary’s song. 

As I read and re-read Mary’s song that week in preparation for Sunday, I felt a strong connection to her. I imagined her looking just like me – gigantic belly and all.  I envisioned her responding to each kick and punch of the baby in her womb by placing her hand on her belly. And as her hand rose and fell with the movements of her unborn child, I wondered what she thought about and how she pictured that little person growing inside of her?  Being almost eight months pregnant myself, at that point my imagination had constructed a very detailed vision of who my second daughter would be.  So who did Mary picture her son to be and what did she dream for him?

Then as I read through commentaries and articles about Mary and her song for my sermon preparation, I began to see her mother’s dream unfold in the words of Luke 1:46-55.  Mary dreamed about the new world her son would bring into being.  It would be a world where the poor, the downtrodden, and the powerless are restored.  It would be a world where the strong, the rich, and the proud no longer dominate, but the lowly are lifted up and the hungry are fed, where God fills, helps, remembers and is merciful by turning the entire order of society upside down.  It would be a world where her son starts a revolution.

And there she sat. 

Pregnant. 

With the hope of a revolution of justice and redemption inside of her.

And with the expectation that she would deliver that hope to the world.

And looking down at my own pregnant belly, I was reminded that Mary was not the only one pregnant with that same kind of hope.

So when I preached that December morning in 2007, I tried to paint a picture of Mary that is sometimes forgotten – the Mary in-between Gabriel’s visit and the manger.  I attempted to use her pregnancy to illustrate the kind of hope we should all have.  When we hope for redemption and justice, we should have Mary’s kind of hope.  It should be a hope that is assured since we can feel it kicking and punching and growing inside of us.  It should be a hope that is active since, like labor and delivery, bringing our hope to fulfillment is not a passive endeavor. 

And you can only imagine the congregational gasps as I said, “In fact, who better than Mary to illustrate to us the fact that we are all humble virgins whom God has impregnated with hope?  That’s right, you heard me – I’m not the only pregnant one in the room anymore. As followers of Christ we have all been made pregnant by God’s hope and like Mary we have the privilege of giving birth to God’s revolution of justice!”

After church that day, one male member of the congregation said to me, “I will never forget today – the day you made us all pregnant.” 

Note: The above is an excerpt from Meredith’s essay “Pregnant and Remembered Hopes” from the collection  A Divine Duet: Ministry and Motherhood (Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys Publishers, 2013).

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Reverend Meredith Stone serves as women in ministry specialist for Texas Baptists.  Her work includes resourcing and supporting women serving in vocational ministry across Texas and consulting with churches and institutions that support women in leadership.  Meredith is also working on a PhD in Biblical Interpretation through Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University.  Meredith’s husband, James, serves as Director of Church Relations for Hardin-Simmons and they have two daughters, Hallie and Kinsey.

 

 

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