The Least Common Birthday
I learned this week that Christmas is the least common day of the year for a baby to be born in the USA. How could this be? I don’t think it relates to any divine influence to keep the calendar as clear as possible for Jesus’s birthday (in reality, no one knows Jesus’s literal birthday). Rather, it seems that soon-to-be-mothers and doctors alike choose to do all in their power to avoid the miracle of birth on a holiday. While consciously delaying the induction of birth, or unconsciously resisting the irresistible, this birthday statistic suggests a whole next level to Advent waiting.
In worship we have been waiting for nearly four weeks now: waiting for the Promised One to arrive, waiting for light and salvation, waiting for Christ to be born. It would be fair to become impatient at this point and even observe that Jesus has — of course — already been born.
And you would be right, but also two-thirds wrong!
For while Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem all those years ago, for his mission to be complete, he would also be born into the hearts of all those who would give him room. This second birth is what Jesus spent his adult ministry proclaiming.
Calling Peter: “Come and follow me, be born to a new life with me as your Rabbi.”
To Mary Magdalene: “Change your old way of life, let me have the central place.”
To Nicodemus the Pharisee: “Everyone must be born again!”
And so it goes throughout the pages of the Gospels. There is relatively little ink spilled (and literally zero ink in the Gospel of Mark) on the details surrounding Jesus’ birth. This is one of the reasons why Luke 2 is so precious. The vast majority of the Gospels focuses our attention on the transformation that happens to the people, families, and systems into which Jesus Christ is truly born. And this is God’s desire: to birth something new in and among us, even now.
Five hundred years ago, a disciple called Saint John of the Cross put this truth into poetic form. While Saint John’s theological underpinnings might be slightly different than my own, his poem moves me to want to be more open to God, to have Jesus born again in my life. Consider his words about what is truly the rarest of birthdays:
If you want
The Virgin will come walking down the road
Pregnant with the holy and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
Please take me inside your heart, for my time is close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul,
You will witness the sublime intimacy
The Christ taking birth forever
As she grasps your hand for help,
Each of us is the midwife of God.
Each of us
If you want,
The Virgin will come walking down the street,
Pregnant with Light
May the God of new birth bring new life to you and yours in this season.