Advent Week 3: Emmanuel – God With Us


I shiver in the chill of the night and pull my cloak tighter around my shoulders. The darkness is still and calm around me, with only the rustling of the sheep and the occasional bleat to punctuate the silence. Every once in a while the low sound of a voice wafts over from the conversation of the other shepherds. I sit separate from them. An outcast among outcasts. The only woman in the group. I am tolerated, if not accepted, because of the presence of my brother, Simon.

I rub my hands together, calloused skin brushing against calloused skin, hoping to create enough warmth to stop my shivering. The night stretches ahead of us, interminable. I shiver again. Not just because of the cold, but because of the night. I hate the night. I hate the memories that come creeping in along with the evening shadows. I hate the darkness and all of its unknowns, all that it keeps hidden. I know too well what kind of evil hides in the darkness. 

I shake my head, trying to shake off the memories that flood in unbidden. It doesn’t work. It rarely does, in the darkness of the night. This is hardly a surprise. It was in the darkness of the night that my life was shattered. And so in each darkness, it seems to shatter again. 

My growling stomach breaks the silence and stops the downward cycle of my thoughts. I’m so hungry. Bethlehem. I sigh to myself. The name of the town we live outside of means House of Bread. I’m sure our ancestors who named it wanted to remind themselves and all their descendents of Yahweh’s goodness, of his provisions for his people. As shepherds, do we experience this? Hardly. We are looked down upon, scorned, left to survive on our own. Any attempt we make to improve our lives or to step out of our poverty will only see us stomped back down by those who consider themselves better than us. Anything we make or find cannot even be sold for profit because the religious leaders have declared that it must have been stolen. 

So even living in the hills surrounding this House of Bread, I go to bed most nights with an empty stomach. 

I think back to my childhood, back before the sheep, before the brokenness, before The Night. My childhood was a typical one, a happy one, I think. My parents told us the stories of Yahweh and our people. Simon and I were raised on the stories of God’s faithfulness, of God coming to save his people again and again and again. 

God’s people are enslaved in Egypt? God sends Moses and the plagues to free them. God’s people are being chased down by the Egyptian army? Through Moses, God parts the Red Sea and they walk through. God’s people are in the desert with nothing to eat? God provides them with manna to eat. 

And now, God’s people, under the thumb of the Romans. What will God do? When will God act? 

And am I still a part of God’s people? What about me? Will God act on my behalf? On Simon’s? Simon did nothing wrong except defend me, and now we live as outcasts to our people. It seems Yahweh has forgotten his people. 

I shake my head in another attempt to dispel the dark thoughts. They seem to be my constant companion in the darkness. Even in sleep, they come and plague me. 

Tonight is going to be a long night. 

Just as my head is finally nodding and I am drifting off into sleep, it’s daylight. No, not daylight. And yet the night sky is filled with a dazzling light, a terrifying light. Even as I’m still trying to figure out what is happening, I hear Simon call my name, my older brother always coming to my defence. I reach out blindly, grasping for him, hoping to find something solid and known to hold on to. 

And then the voice speaks out of the brightness. 

“Don’t be afraid!” That is a ridiculous command, and yet I am immediately less afraid. As the voice continues, a shape starts to take form amidst the light… is this an angel speaking to us? “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, in the town of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

My mind is spinning with this news, but there is no time to think about it and understand because suddenly the whole sky is filled with angels. They are singing the most beautiful song, its harmonies ringing through the sky, through the whole celestial sphere, resonating inside me.

Suddenly the lights disappear, the angels gone, their song ringing in our ears. The world is black around us again, and I can’t see, my eyes needing to adjust to the darkness. A voice I recognize as my brother’s speaks out into this darkness. “I’m going. Let’s go to see this thing that has happened!” If Simon is going, then I know I will inevitably end up going too. Other voices speak out their agreement, and we’re on our way in mere seconds. Simon sounded so sure when he declared his intention to visit this newborn baby. I do not share his certainty. Not that this baby has been born – it seems hard to deny the angels. But I have no conviction that we’ll be welcome. No certainty that the arrival of this baby, if he is indeed the Messiah, which it seems he must be if angels are declaring it so – no certainty that this baby will change anything. Especially for us – shepherds. Outcasts. Especially for me. Broken. 

The others speak excitedly as we walk. I hardly pay attention, my mind turning my thoughts over and over and over. 

Finally I can bear my own thoughts no longer and dash around the others to catch up to Simon who is leading the way at the front. 

“Simon,” I blurt out, and then pause to try to catch my breath from the running. He doesn’t slow down. I look at him as he continues to walk, his pace fast enough and his legs long enough that I am nearly jogging to keep up. I can see his face in the starlight well enough to recognize the determined set of his jaw. But the excitement glinting in his eyes that is softening his resolute expression reminds me of the boy he once was. 

He doesn’t stop, so I ask my questions as I hurry along beside him. We’re on the last uphill section into town, and my questions must be asked now or they will not be answered before we enter. “Simon. Why us? Why did the angels give us this news? What is Yahweh doing? We’re nobody. We’re shepherds. They’re not going to let us see this baby. They’re going to send us away!”

He doesn’t slow down even to answer me. “I don’t know. I don’t know why us, I just know that we have been chosen! I’m not going to question it, I’m just going to believe it! And if we have been chosen for this news… they’ll let us see, Deborah. They’ll let us see.”

He seems so sure. I’m not even sure who the “they” is that we’re referring to. The… the baby’s parents, I suppose. This seems so backwards. My head spins. How is the Messiah here, but as a baby? How is this going to fulfill Yahweh’s plans? 

And then suddenly we find the place and the others are barging in and I can’t see what’s happening but I’m just worried we’re going to be laughed out of the place or driven out by someone enraged that shepherds would dare insert themselves here. I still can’t see, but suddenly I notice the smell. It smells like us, like me. Like animals. Maybe we won’t be laughed out of here. And then the men in front of me finally make way and I can see, and it is just as the angel told us. The baby, wrapped in strips of cloth. Lying in a manger. His mother kneeling beside him. She is looking at us not with the alarm that I would expect, but with a serene calmness, and an almost expectant look about her. Like of course a group of shepherds would welcome themselves into this room where she has given birth and is contemplating her newborn. 

Her eyes pass over the group of us, and she makes eye contact with me. Now her expression changes a little – startled, perhaps, to see me in this group of me. She considers me momentarily, and then gestures toward her little newborn, holding my eyes and clearly speaking to me and not the men surrounding me. “Would you like to hold him?”

Would I like to hold him. This baby, the messiah we have longed for as a people for centuries. Would I like to hold him, an outcast, a woman who by the rights of Jewish law should have been stoned to death for the acts committed against me, to me. 

I wait for this woman to realize what she is suggesting and rescind her offer. But she does not. 

This baby is my complete opposite. Innocent and new, while I have been broken by the world. If he is indeed the Messiah, he is the most important person in our people, while I am no one, worse than an outcast. This baby represents all that has been stolen from my life – the chance for my own family, a loving husband, the gift of children to laugh with and love. It’s that thought that stops me short. If I will never have my own child to hold, then I will hold this one for a moment and experience a baby filling my arms for the few minutes that it can happen. 

The woman is still waiting, patiently. She does not seem concerned that her simple question is taking me a long moment to think through. I look up at her again finally and simply nod, barely able to swallow past the lump that has lodged in my throat. 

She gently picks up the newborn from where he lays, sleeping. Then carefully she rises from her knees to her feet. I step forward from the doorway where I have been hovering since entering, taking step after step forward as if in a dream. We stand facing each other on either side of the manger, and she leans forward, putting her newborn in my arms. She looks into his face, a look filled with such a tender love that the lump in my throat threatens to overwhelm me, and I rapidly blink back tears. 

A man comes to her side – her husband, maybe, judging by the tender way he approaches, touching her arm. “Mary, come and sit again.” 

She does not immediately do so, but looks at me still. “Come and sit by me,” she says gently. I step around the manger, taking slow and careful steps, mindful of the baby in my arms. Her hands guide me as I kneel, then take a seat on some blankets laid out. She sits next to me, watching the other shepherds who are watching us. 

Now sitting down, I can finally turn my attention to the baby in my arms. A warmth permeates through the cloth wrapped around the baby, warming me. I lean down and inhale. His sweet baby smell fills me with an indescribable ache. For all that I have longed for and lost. For a delight in his innocence.

I think again of the angel’s words. This is the promised Messiah? This is the one Isaiah wrote about saying, “The virgin will conceive. She will give birth to a son and will call him, Emmanuel, which means God with us”?

This promised Messiah has not changed anything. My heart is still shattered. My reputation still in tatters. My life still a story of brokenness that this baby in my arms cannot change. 

The baby wrinkles his nose and lets out a sigh. 

I cannot believe this baby matters the way that we thought he would, but I also do not want to give him back to his mother. I hold him close, barely daring to breathe in case it wakes him. 

Eventually there are rustling sounds around me, and I see some of the men get up from their positions kneeling around. I stay still. The sounds continue, men beginning to head out. I remain still, staring at the baby. A hand touches my shoulder, and I hear Simon’s voice, low and gentle. “Deborah.”

I do not want to leave. I snuggle the baby closer to my chest. This baby, who changes nothing. And yet I can’t hand him back over to his mother, the woman named Mary. 

Why can’t I give up this baby?

The baby lets out a sudden cry. My heart jumps in alarm. I look quickly to Mary, but she seems unconcerned. Babies cry all the time, I suppose. But this baby is special! He shouldn’t be crying! 

It is a small spark of realization, like the first light of dawn piercing the darkness. But the realization grows and grows until it is the light of the sun, gleaming down, a light that bathes me in its glory. This baby doesn’t change anything? No, my circumstances remain the same. This baby doesn’t wipe away my past like the wind blowing away footprints left in the dust. He doesn’t heal my wounds or take away my brokenness. He doesn’t make it all okay. 

But he’s here with me in the brokenness. 

Yahweh, the God of glory and holiness. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God so holy that meeting with him made Moses’ face shine with radiance. God is here with me. In my brokenness. God with us, Emmanuel. God, taking on human form, able to cry himself, to feel the pain and brokenness of our world. 

I almost can’t take in a breath at the wonder of this realization. I look up and catch Mary’s eye and I realize she understands this too. That has been the look of wonder and peace in her eyes, the understanding at a dirty group of shepherds bursting in on her new family mere hours after labour. 

Simon speaks my name again, more insistently this time. But Mary seems unconcerned with how much time I have taken, how I am still holding her baby. 

I rise to my knees slowly, tenderly, careful not to jostle the sleeping newborn in my arms. I lean toward Mary and put the baby back into her arms. Our eyes meet again. And that spark passes between us again. No words are needed for this communication; our hearts recognize the truth of the gift that we have received. 

I leave without breaking the silence. The other shepherds are ahead of us, nearly skipping along in their joy. I can hear them talking excitedly about telling others, sharing this news that God seems somehow to have chosen us, lowly shepherds, to receive first. 

Simon walks more sedately beside me, a companion in my silence. 

My mind thinks back over all that has happened tonight. I still do not understand, but keep returning to this thought: God has come to be with me in my brokenness. 

We walk along, and my mind turns this over and over and over. 

“Emmanuel,” I whisper to myself, still in awe. 

And I hear Simon’s whispered response, equally awe-filled: “God with us.”

Advent Week 2: God’s Upside-Down Kingdom

It is the sudden silence that I notice first. 

I turn, and there it is. An… an angel? I nearly drop the lamp I am filling with oil in preparation for the evening hours, which are drawing nearer. 

“Greetings! You are beautiful with God’s beauty, inside and out! God be with you!”

I am taken aback. What kind of greeting is that? I grew up on the stories of my people. I could name the encounters that people have had with God’s messengers in the Scriptures. An angel with Daniel in the den of lions… an angel with the three righteous men thrown into King Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace… the prophet Elijah ministered to by an angel. But then there was also the angel of the Lord bringing judgment to Israel or its enemies… what can this angel be doing here? And what can he possibly want with me? 

Maybe the angel sees my confusion, maybe he senses my hesitation, because he continues: “Mary, you have nothing to fear.” Even as I’m trying to understand the fact that the angel knows my name, he… it? is saying something even more shocking. “God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, he will be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will rule Jacob’s house forever – no end, ever, to his kingdom.” 

I do not understand. The ways of God are mysterious, yes… angels often seem to be involved with the more mysterious of these events, but… “But how?” I can’t help but ask. Not out of disbelief, but out of curiosity. “I’ve never slept with a man…” Yes, God can protect Daniel in his den of lions and keep alive men in a fiery furnace… but how? Is it wrong of me to be curious and mystified? 

The angel answers. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Therefore the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.”

I don’t know if that really answers my question. And yet that really is a God type of answer. But the angel isn’t done yet. “Did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, even as old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” 

Yes. These last words from the angel are exactly what my heart needs. I am full of questions, but the unknowable and all-knowing God will do what he says. 

I give my own answer to the angel, to God, trying to keep the tremor of fear from my voice: “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”

As suddenly as the angel appeared, he is gone. I notice again the birds outside my window. I look out. It’s become dusk. 

My hands return to the lamp. I fill it with oil, trim the wick, and light it, all without paying attention to what I am doing. My mind is still spinning. I have only questions. I still don’t understand how I will become pregnant. And maybe that is the least of my questions… How can I be mother to the Messiah? And yet… and yet if this is the Lord’s plan, then surely God will bring it about, and as I said to the angel, I am the Lord’s servant, ready to serve. 



The next morning, I am up before sunrise, having awakened to a pounding heart and spinning head. My questions are not done yet. I feel like I have not slept at all. I am ready to leave at the first light of dawn to visit my cousin Elizabeth. If there is anyone that I can talk to about this, surely it is Elizabeth, who the angel said is experiencing her own miraculous pregnancy. 

I set out as the first hints of orange tinge the sky, as soon as it is light enough that it is safe for me to walk. I walk, and I think. 

What about Joseph? Surely he will want to divorce me now. He will certainly assume that I have broken our engagement vows. 

Why has God chosen me? Out of all women… out of all ways to bring his promised one…

How will I raise this baby alone? How is God going to work this out? 

And yet, as I walk, my questions fade. They don’t disappear, certainly. My brain keeps spinning, but my heart is centered. I don’t know how God protected Daniel amongst the lions. I don’t know how God protected men from a fire so hot it killed the men who threw them into the furnace, while they came out of the fire without even the smell of smoke. I don’t know how God works, but I know from the stories of my people that God does. My curiosity remains, my uncertainty, but a peace that could only come from God rests in my heart. 

It is with surprise that I look up from the road and from my thoughts and see that I’ve arrived at my cousin Elizabeth’s house. An unfamiliar woman is working in Elizabeth’s garden, singing while she works. It takes me a moment of wondering why there is a stranger to realize that it is in fact my cousin herself, her countenance so changed since the last time I saw her that I did not recognize her. 

“Elizabeth!” I call out, excited. But then I pause, unsure of how to begin my conversation. I had set out this morning with only questions; I arrive with questions accompanied by a peace that might be harder to explain than my circumstances. 

Elizabeth looks up, and her face breaks out into a smile. Her hand goes to her stomach, already substantial in size, and her smile only grows, joy evident in her face. I can’t remember the last time I saw Elizabeth happy, let alone joy-filled. She reaches the other hand out to me and pulls me into a hug.  “Blessed are you among women! And blessed is the child you will bear!” she says by way of greeting. I stiffen in surprise. Another question, another curiosity. How can she know such a thing that I have only found out so recently? And yet, hasn’t my own unknowing shown me that some things cannot have earthly explanation? I sink into her embrace, tears trickling down my face. Finally, we step back. Elizabeth is brushing tears from her cheeks, just as I am. 

“Why am I so favoured,” Elizabeth asks me, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” I thought I was done crying, but my eyes immediately overflow again, and I cannot speak. But Elizabeth continues: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

And I do. Despite all of my questions, I do believe that the Lord will fulfill his promises. Suddenly I feel filled with the fire of God, like a prophetess of old, like the mighty Deborah sitting beneath her palm tree, speaking God’s truth to everyone who would come to listen. Or like Miriam, picking up her tambourine and leading Israel in a song of praise. The words erupt out of me. 

“I’m bursting with what God is doing! My soul celebrates the God Who Saves!

I’m only God’s humble servant, and yet God has noticed me. 

I’m the most blessed woman on earth! 

What God has done for me will never be forgotten!

God’s mercy keeps coming, flowing in wave after wave. 

God doesn’t choose the strong; 

God sends away the proud and gets rid of the tyrants. 

God doesn’t choose the people who think they’re the best. 

But the ones who are poor? The ones who are humbled? 

The ones who have been trodden down by life? 

God chooses them!

The hungry? God fills them with a feast. 

The rich? God dismisses them. 

The powerful? God chooses the weak instead. 

And his people Israel – just when we were losing all hope, 

God showed us that we are not forgotten. 

Why are we surprised? 

This is all that God promised, from Abraham and Sarah on down the line.”


My poem of praise comes to an end. I’m a little overwhelmed by all that I have just said, but Elizabeth is nodding fiercely. She grabs my hand once more and leads me inside for some food and rest. 



I stay with Elizabeth for several weeks. Her body is obviously growing; mine looks the same. But I feel different, inside and out. 

Each time that we sit down to a meal together, we speak the blessing over it. “Blessed are you our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Or, “Blessed are you our God, King of the universe, through whose word everything comes into being.” 

All that there is comes from God. Our spirits are nourished by God’s goodness and grace. Our bodies are nourished by the food that God gives. And now, within me, God, King of the universe, is being nourished by my own body. God isn’t just choosing the powerless; he is becoming the powerless. 

Of all the mysteries of this moment, this is surely my greatest. 



The time has come to set off home again. The changes within my body will soon be visible. Whatever the response of Joseph, I am ready to face it. Whatever the scorn of the world, I will remember that it is the poor and downtrodden that God keeps choosing, time after time. 

I’ll keep collecting my questions. I have a feeling this won’t be the last of new ones. I’ll keep noticing what God is doing. And I’ll move forward, not with certainty about what is happening, but with faith that God will do what he has planned, and with peace that God remains in control.

Advent Week 1: Waiting

I was named after the wrong ancestor. My parents, proud of our Levite heritage, named me after Elisheba, Aaron’s wife. But I should have been named Sarai after my foremother whose arms were empty for so much of her life. The ancestor who bore the same burden of barrenness that I bear, this same badge of shame. 

Elizabeth – My God is bountiful. That is not my experience of God. My name mocks me, reminding me that others experience this goodness of God that I do not. That others taste and see that the Lord is good, while I have waited and waited and waited, yet I seem to be passed over. And now I am old. My childbearing years are over. My arms remain empty. And I fight daily against an empty heart as well.

Zechariah helps me keep my sanity. My sweet Zechariah. How many nights have my tears soaked his tunic, his hand stroking my hair as I have cried myself to sleep in his arms? Somehow he has held onto his faith. Somehow his name has been his truth, and when I turn to him in tears, he reminds me, Yahweh has remembered; Yahweh will remember us. 

But this week I find myself alone again. Zechariah’s turn to serve in the temple has come again, and he has gone to Jerusalem to do his priestly duty. My husband loves his work, loves shepherding his flock, calling the people to turn their hearts toward God. He has been faithful to God and has served diligently as a priest, and yet his reward has been to suffer the whispers and suspicions of our neighbours, wondering what sins we have committed and kept hidden to deserve our childlessness. 

So without Zechariah, I cry myself to sleep alone, asking Yahweh why he has not remembered me. Asking myself why I cannot abandon God the way God seems to have abandoned me. 



Sabbath comes. The blueness of the sky and the bright sunlight seem to mock me as I make my way to the synagogue. By now, I am used to the sidelong glances from the other women, their hesitation to befriend. They sit next to me in the synagogue only when the other seats are full. It’s not their fault, really. They are just sure that my barrenness is a curse from God, a sign of punishment. If only God would vindicate me! If only God would show them that my conscience is clear, speak on my behalf! If only I could stop caring what they think. If only my heart were truly as empty as I wish it were, and I were actually immune to the pain, as I pretend to be. 

The scroll is unfurled and the reading begins from Isaiah. “‘Sing barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.”

I stiffen my back. Suddenly each woman around me is still, afraid to move, afraid to even breathe. No eyes are cast in my direction, no one turns to look at me, but I feel the weight of everybody’s attention, keenly focused on me. 

I keep my eyes open and stare directly ahead. But I close my ears and I close my heart. I don’t hear another word of the reading.



Sunrise, sunset. In my numbness, the week passes in a blur. After the next Sabbath, I look up from the herbs I am gathering to see Zechariah hurrying toward me, followed by a small group of men. I want to rush forward and let him gather me into his arms, but the presence of the men prevents me. My husband lifts his hand to wave a greeting to me, and before I have a chance to wonder why he is surrounded by men I barely know and why he is not greeting me, they rush over themselves to explain, their words tripping over each other. They are talking about an angel and good news and I suddenly catch the words, “You will bear a son!” I almost laugh at the thought of that, and think maybe I really should have been named for Sarah. But then I catch the look in Zechariah’s eyes and clamp shut my mouth and finally the men realize that we are paying them no attention and leave. And then we are inside, and in signs and without his voice, Zechariah is explaining to me that it’s true, an angel did visit him and promise us a son, and his inability to speak is a sign or a punishment and he will be able to speak again only when our son is born. 

And tonight it is Zechariah’s tears soaking my tunic, only his tears stem from his great joy. And I stroke Zechariah’s hair, murmuring to him, wondering if it can really be. I think back again to my foremother Sarah. Suddenly her laughter bubbles up inside me, only it is not the laughter of deprecation and doubt. It is the laughter of joy and hope and promise, of something new being conceived. “Zechariah,” I whisper. “Zechariah, Yahweh has not forgotten me!”



When the growing season comes, warmth returns to the world incrementally. Seeds grow underground for days before their tender green heads pop up above soil. So it is with the changes inside my body. Days go by while I caress my stomach in wonder at this miracle taking place inside me. Then, as slow tendrils of green unfurl in the world around, slow tendrils of growth unfurl in my body. 

As time passes, my heart begins to thaw as well. Seeds that had lain dormant for decades suddenly pop their heads above the soil.  Tender shoots of joy in my daily work where before there was only the bitter resentment of work never finished. A smile for my neighbour chasing her toddling son through the dirt where before there was only the bitter resentment of empty arms. A heart hardened after years of pain is slowly, incrementally warmed.

My body grows so slowly that each day I cannot see a difference, and yet over time the changes are obvious. My heart grows in the same way – only its changes are bigger still than the ones taking place in my body. God has taken away my disgrace. My heart is light. I am filled with a quiet joy. I think back to the words I heard read aloud in the synagogue on the Sabbath when Zechariah was visited by the angel. The words were a reproach to me then, but now, my heart does burst into song, that song even overflowing occasionally to my lips. 

I stay in seclusion, letting my body prepare itself for the work ahead of growing and birthing this child. Letting my heart prepare itself for the new work of motherhood. Letting my spirit be restored from the years of pain.



My cousin Mary comes to visit. When she sends word that she will arrive, I first assume that it is out of concern for my seclusion. But when I see her face radiating with the same peace that I now feel, I know that is not her purpose. And my son, my yet unborn son, leaps inside me, his joy an echo of my own, confirming what I know in my heart. 

I pull Mary into my arms. “Blessed are you among women! And blessed is the child you will bear!” I feel Mary first stiffen in surprise, surely wondering how I know. But as I keep my arms around her, she melts back into my embrace. She has experienced the miraculous enough to allow her to know that which she cannot understand. Finally, we step back, both brushing tears from our cheeks. 

“Why am I so favoured,” I ask my cousin, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary’s eyes overflow with tears again. She does not need to answer. I tell Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

I may have doubted, but Mary believed. Nevertheless, now Yahweh has turned my doubt to faith, turned my heartache to joy. 

Mary stays several weeks with me. We spend much time letting praise overflow from our hearts, singing together in our work. But at other times, words are not necessary, and we sit silently as our hearts contemplate all that God has done. 



The time for the baby comes. My old body groans and cries out with the pain of labour. But my heart overflows with joy. The pain and the tears and the sweat and the blood mingle, and in the midst of this pain something new is birthed, something that had been conceived in me at the same time as this baby: hope and joy and mystery and wonder. 

The midwife places the baby in my arms. I recall the name the angel gave to Zechariah: John. The Lord has shown favour. Yes. And my own name is a truth I now know to the depths of my soul: My God is bountiful.