There, in the middle of the hymn, out of the corner of my eye, her belly caught my attention. She came up the aisle and slid in the pew behind me, her round belly taut with meaning. Echoes of Sylvia Plath’s poem… a melon walking on tendrils, a riddle in nine, a full house, she’s boarded the train and there’s no getting off. But the beauty of a pregnant belly, the fine roundness, the stretch and pull of possibility, the swelling of potential… it is beauty, startling and suspenseful.

And there was a moment of sadness. My time is up. Those days are past. In some respects, that’s a good thing. But that oneness, that communion of shared fluids, heart beats, growth and stretching, that alien inside kicking and hiccupping and squirming in the tightening space. That was beauty, too. Seeing her brought to mind that I’m older now, that time is passing, stages are crossed, and motherhood in its ever-changing ways has moved on.

And I thought of my friend, admitted into the hospital this week to await the birth of her daughter, and the prayers of her friends that it proves to be a longish stay to give baby girl more time to grow. The joy of that pregnancy, the fulfilled desires, the dreams in that womb ripening, health and glow, amniotic peace… waiting and waiting and praying and waiting. All worth it. All the healing this will bring, all the joy in store, the allness of that baby girl growing in her amniotic bubble. Joy to watch. This is my seat for the show, on the sidelines, not in the center ring, but the anticipation and hope is so palpable I am happy beyond words for her, for them.

“I am your daughter.” These words that stab a new kind of joy, a new sense of possibility. She’s new to our family, our sponsored child in Uganda, rescued from child slavery, from poverty and starvation and threat and brought to an orphanage to learn her worth in the eyes of God so much greater than in the eyes of man. She sent us a Christmas card to thank us for sponsoring her, to share her prayers for our one-day meeting, to express her love of God and His love for her and us. And in the middle of it all, she wrote, “I am your daughter.” Beautiful, heart-wrenching words. Half a world away, she turns to us as family, because family is gone. Orphaned, abandoned, abducted, enslaved… these were her potential titles, her family tree. And my heart opened, bloomed fragrant, radiated in the newness of this form of motherhood. I wear a beaded bracelet made by her fellow orphans in remembrance, in prayer for her, my African daughter, half a world away, newly adopted, new to my heart, but so at home there. My heart has been yearning for her without my even realizing completely how complete the knowledge of her would make me feel.

We start singing another song, a variation of Angels We Have Heard on High, Gloria in Excelsis Deo. The bridge begins, “How could Heaven’s heart not break, on the day, on the day that He came down?” How could God’s heart, so full of love, not crack brittle as glory shrunk, magnificence unrobed, trinity unity broke like waters gushing and godhead became infant born not in palace but in barn. How did Father not weep when Son left on that journey? And Mary, round and taut, stretching and pulling, did her heart break in the delivery of God’s promise? It would later on, doubtless.
A word scratching at my brain, back there, pushing its way forward, rushing out to be born in light, the word birthed… is adopted. And I see. In the heart break, in the trinity break, in Father cracking brittle as Son journeys off, in Son leaving, there is one great adoption of sons and daughters, one monumental, earth-cracking, family-growing welcoming of all in the family. Without glory shrinking, without magnificence unrobed, without trinity unity broken, there is no great orphan rescue. And we are orphans, broken by our graceless, illness-infested, dysfunction, starving for LOVE, insecure, abducted by evil. In need of a sponsor, we got Him. In need of rescue, we got Him. He sent Himself, Prince on the White Horse, blade slashing death and slaying dragons. Glory in the rounded belly, magnificence birthing in a lowly stable to become our Brother Savior.

Paul speaks of it. Ephesians 1: 4-14 “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.” (The Message)

We are the adopted children of God. Initially, God had His holy family, the family of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his sons, the 12 tribes. But God wasn’t content with that. He wanted more. He wanted the Jews and the non-Jews, the yous and the mes.

Staggering reality. Christmas births new meaning. The sweet story of pregnant Mary riding toward Bethlehem, weighty with the Savior growing in her firming, rounding, stretching belly, the shepherds scared to death by angel wings and angel song and light brighter than the sun, the animals around the manger warming the peaceful babe with their bovine breath, the mysterious star that led strangers across a desert, the fragile and humble, all of the nativity becomes a great rescue operation. Umbilical cord becomes life-line.

And I, like my daughter half a world away, I cry out to my adopted Father. “I am your daughter. Thank you for sponsoring me, for rescuing me.” God loves me and God loves you, enough to split open Heaven, His yearning for us so strong that it took Son on the cross to sign the adoption papers, to clear the court.

This is Christmas, when fullness bursts, ripeness completes, and through the pregnancy the adoption is instigated. Brother, sister, take my hand, gather round bend the knee. He is come.

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