If there is a shape that speaks of Christmas in the fullest sense it is not a pine tree or a snow man or even a star. Christmas is most perfectly pictured by the contours of a belly full of baby, stretching the skin to its limits and supporting heavy breasts laden with milk.
The image is decidedly feminine - raw and graceful. A swollen womb invites so many questions: is this baby planned? is this baby wanted? did the woman invite the invasion of her womb or was she a victim? will the baby survive? will the mother survive?
"Women continue to be associated with their bodies in ways that men are not. And, as a result of this unique association, women’s identities are also uniquely tied to their bodies in a manner that men’s identities are not" (quote from Sharon Hodde Miller - see my facebook for her full article.) When Mary said yes to the angel, yes to a will other than her own, she took on the burden familiar to women in every age. Yes, Mary was unique, but she was also woman.
As Mary's waist began to expand did her sense of self begin to change? What did she know about life? How did she understand her role, now as mother and not just woman.
At lunch today I talked with a woman who helps serve in the cafeteria. She was telling me more of her story, and her mother's story. She said she didn't know what a 'boy' was until she was married. She was horrified at what happened to her. When she found out she was pregnant - she had gone to the doctor for the 'flu' - she was confused and asked the doctor how it had happened. He scoffed at her, but she truly didn't know.
Woman's sexuality is a vulnerable thing. In a world where rape is a weapon of war, where little girls are married off before they know who they are, let alone what the act of sex is about, but where even old ladies still want to be 'sexy,' we have Mary. A girl becoming a woman through hope and pain. A baby stretching her womb. Confusion. Wondering. Pondering. What does this mean? What will happen to my baby? What will happen to me?
So this is Christmas. Uncomfortable when it is truest. Dangerous, even. And always open to something new.