Nativity scene

December 15, 2014

The whole church smelled of pine and poinsettias as the Altar Guild scrubbed, polished, and decorated for Christmas. I was glad to be part of the effort of decorating the church and frustrated that no one would allow me to carry anything or get on a ladder.

“I’m just pregnant, not disabled,” I snapped at well meaning parishioners.

I finally resigned myself to setting up the ceramic figures for the nativity crèche and arranging votive candles around the table.

That year, Advent took on a whole new meaning for me as I heard the story of Mary and Elizabeth with new understanding. I kept telling myself that pregnancy was normal and mundane – plenty of women have been through it. But with each passing week, I experienced a revolutionary new connection to God’s plan for bringing Jesus into the world. The incarnation became a visceral knowledge and no longer a theological abstraction.

As I sat at the nativity table placing sheep and shepherds, Mary and Joseph and a donkey with a broken ear… I felt a little movement in my tummy. At first, I considered what I had eaten for breakfast that morning. But then, the more I paid attention, the more I realized that the movement I felt was not breakfast, but rather a squirmy fetus making her presence known. I was simultaneously stunned and full of such gratitude that I sat silent and still at the crèche hoping to feel some more signs of life from within. Soon, a member of the Altar Guild sailed past me in efficient haste but was stopped in her tracks by the look on my face.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“Nothing. I think I can feel the baby moving.” I grinned at her, tears welling up in my eyes.

In a matter of seconds, every Elizabeth-aged Altar Guild woman had left her poinsettias and gathered around to hug me and bear witness to the joy of carrying new life.

The Rev. Adrien Dawson is the rector of St. Mark’s on-the-Hill Episcopal Church, Pikesville.

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