2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Earlier this week I read an interesting story in the news that I quite honestly didn’t even think was possible. This is the headline that popped up on my feed:
It took me a couple reads to get what it was actually saying, and even after all that, I was still like “uh hwat”. Because really, did anyone know this was possible? This woman had an embryo (not hers, by the way) that was frozen years ago put into her uterus, where it stayed and grew for the full pregnancy term and she gave birth to it. I know we can put embryos and stuff into women’s bodies, but I didn’t know you could freeze one… and for that long. Turns out that this embryo went into her cyrostasis or whatever they did in Austin Powers like 24 years ago. The woman that gave birth the baby? She’s just 25. That means she, by some strange miracle of science, is technically only a year older than her newborn baby.
My brain hurts as I try to wrap my head around this.
I mean… what the what? It is hard to believe how far science has come and what it can accomplish. But as I read on in the article, apparently it isn’t new at all, it is just me who is uninformed. Apparently, they have been doing this for a while, not just the freezing of embryos, but successfully giving them a natural birth, or as natural as can be at this point. According to the article, roughly 75 percent of the donated and frozen embryos survive, and about 49 percent of those implanted end up in live birth. Those stats don’t sound great when we’re talking about babies, but apparently at the time of the article there has been at least 686 babies that have been born from this process.
686! Man alive was I ever uninformed. I never even heard of one. Well actually, now I have. Actually, now I’ve heard of 686 of them.
But I would imagine this new mother would face a lot of backlash for this decision. She would probably have people banging on her door calling this an abomination, or monstrous (like Frankenstein monstrous), or at very least, playing God. Now I should say that I haven’t heard of any backlash from that one article that I read, but I was wondering if this would happen. In this day and age, I admit that it seems plausible or even likely. And that assumption of mine causes me to worry about her.
For good reason, a lot of people look at childbirth as a very sacred thing. Many people frown upon abortions, teen pregnancies, and children born out of wedlock. There is a stigma against single parents, putting kids up for adoption, or shotgun weddings. This has put somewhat of a negative view on any birth that doesn’t happen within a heterosexual marriage. And that makes this process this woman went through pretty scary.
I would be scared at least. I don’t think I would go through the process of having a frozen embryo planted into my wife because of it. Well, that and the fact that we haven’t had a problem having kids, also I think she is done with the whole pregnancy thing. But if we had to choose between this and every other scientific advancement to assist pregnancy, I would think that every other scientific advancement to assist pregnancy would win every time.
Because who would want to risk of all that backlash? Who would want to take the chance on these social stigmas? Who would want to face the possibility of being out casted from society?
Not many people, I tell ya. Only those who really really want a kid, or those who really really want to try science, or those who really really believe in life, and love, and God’s gracious gift of a child.
Now, which do you think Mary, the mother of Jesus, fell into?
Today on the 4th Sunday of Advent, we often talk about Mary’s role in the whole birth narrative, and as in usual birth stories, the mother plays a huge part. And we know this story, it is probably one of the most familiar stories that we have from the bible.
The angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced to her that she’ll be getting pregnant. Now, if an angel showing up wasn’t scary enough, imagine being very young, like 12 or 13, unwed, and your divine pee stick just turned blue. That is like end your life scary. In these days, maybe an illegitimate teen pregnancy is more of the norm, enough to have a reality series about it, but we know that people still frown on it. Those days would have been the same, except they would be louder about it. Like, louder in the way of shouting and throwing rocks. This kind of thing was really shameful back in those days.
So you can imagine Mary’s fear. You can imagine the worry she would have not just for her own wellbeing, but for that of her child and fiancé. You can imagine her head swirling and her stomach doing backflips, like maybe her life is just done. You can imagine that for the sake of her future, she might have thought of running away, or maybe even somehow ending her pregnancy, or taking whatever desperate measures to end this predicament that she’s found herself in. Because I would think in all that fear any option would look better than accepting life and what is happening right now.
But she does.
In an amazing leap of faith, Mary accepts it. Not just accepts, but fully and wholeheartedly embraces it. “Let it be” she says in reply. Not in a deflated kind of “it is what it is” kind of thing, but an actual proactive grasping of the situation and believing now that this is actually a gift from God, and she goes and breaks off in song with the Magnificat, Mary Poppins style.
All that fear, all that trepidation, all that worry about the future of her life and how others would see her, melted away by faith. All the stigmas, the taboos, the possible and probable finger wagging just dropped off the face of the earth at the angel’s encouraging words. All doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty stopped by the empowering of the Spirit, allowing Mary to take that leap of faith and announce “let it be”.
Let it be.
We hear this story and think, man alive, I couldn’t do that. Like literally, I can’t do that because I don’t have the physical body parts to have a child. But even if I did, I don’t think I would have the courage of Mary, the willingness to obey, the faith that she displayed with such strength beyond anything I ever think I could.
And I see this strength in the woman with the frozen embryo as well. She probably knew the risks and probable judgements from others. She knew how this would look and what others would likely think. She knew people were talking already, and her response was, “no, I think this is a gift from the Lord. It is a gift from the Lord for sure.”
And so she went through with it. Mary went through with it. And we too, have this gift of faith and empowerment to do whatever it is that God calls us to do.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all go out and get pregnant or find some frozen embryos or something, but I am saying that while we sometimes put Mary on a pedestal for her faith, I want all of you to know that you are capable of that same faith.
Because we too, are gifted by God. We too, have been given the faith of Christ, residing in us. We too, are granted the Spirit of all love and grace, allowing us to accept and embrace our calling and our situations and our lives as gifts.
See, while Mary can be held in high regard for being the mother of Jesus, she is and was a person just like us. She had fears and worries just like us. She had dreams and hopes of the future just like us. And just like us, things didn’t exactly go as planned. Things happened that threw her into a tailspin. Her life didn’t shape up as she thought it would.
But she accepted it. She welcomed it. She knew and believed that God is with her, so she was able to let go of fear, embrace the gift of life, and even ask that God “let it be”.
See, this is the gift from God. This gift of faith, this gift of strength, this gift of being able to see and hear God calling us into life and community. Sure, we might not have angels appearing to us telling us specifically what’s up, but we have the Spirit prompting us to do good, we have what we’ve learned in our years and in our relationships, and we have our sisters and brothers in Christ, our community, supporting and caring for each other, encouraging us to go forth and take that leap of faith.
It doesn’t have to be something as big as having a child, but maybe it is to step up and do more for our community, maybe sit on council. Maybe it is to go back to school and gain more skills and change to a career that is more fulfilling. Maybe it is take that homeless person you see all the time for a cup of coffee. Maybe it is to decide to get baptized after all these years. Maybe it is to let go of the things that are holding us back from embracing God’s grace and mercy. Maybe it is to just put aside what we’re afraid of, what others may think of us, what the future seems to be warning us against, or how we suspect society to react. But don’t be afraid, for God is with us, and God has found favour in each and every one of us, and calls us to new and higher heights of love, life, and community.
As we reach the end of this Advent season, as our hope and waiting culminates in the strange and unusual birth of a child, may we find the faith and strength given to us by God to embrace all of that strange and unusual and frankly scary aspects of life that we may see God working in and through our lives. Thanks be to God. Amen.