My little white candle flickered before my eyes as I joined my voice with the congregation. I watched the wax slowly glide down toward my fingers and sang,
“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.”
My heart was pricked as I thought of Mary’s round belly and looked down at the flatness of my own stomach. A stomach that would have been 8 months pregnant, or 2 months pregnant, depending on which baby had survived. But neither of those babies did survive. Both of them were gone.
I’ve thought about the hollow feeling that miscarriage produces so many times since then—how it leaves you feeling like you have a gaping hole in your abdomen where your baby used to be. A hole no one else seems to notice. Labor that ends in empty arms is a harrowing grief: Your womb was full, but then it was not; your arms should be filled, but they are not.
That Christmas was the first time I had truly grasped the gravity of the incarnation of Christ. For the first time in my life, I was desperately aware of the vulnerability of a mother’s womb. That my God not only took on flesh, but willingly nestled himself in that dark, hidden place astounded me. My womb felt like a graveyard, but my Savior grew in Mary’s womb, born to crush death. And crush it he did.
No one understands the vulnerability of a mother’s womb like a woman who has felt the life of her child fade from within. We still feel the sting of death in the here and now. But the incarnation of Christ as well as his death on the cross and his resurrection means we still have hope. One day, “when the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). The sting will flee. All will be made right.
This morning at church, my pastor recalled the birth of Christ and how he was “born unto” us—how it was almost as if God sent the Son with a big “TO YOU” tag. This baby is born to you, for you. It seems that those of us who have lost babies are not left empty-handed. Death has taken much from us, but Jesus has filled our hands with good gifts. Namely, the gift of himself. The baby given to us—to me, to you.
The God who created us was knitted together in a womb, birthed into this dark world, nailed to a cross, taking upon himself all our sin and grief, and was raised from the dead. The light of life has come; we have this hope like a thread of gold against the inky black.
“O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.”