When my husband and I were expecting our first child, we knew it would be miraculous. But nothing could have prepared us for the bizarre wonder we experienced when she made her appearance in the visible world. After her birth we spent a lot of time pointing to her, then pointing to my stomach, asking, "Wait, so that was in there?" We understood the biology, but in some ways, nobody can explain the process of life. There is no other word for it—it's simply a miracle.
This miracle is worth receiving from God and worth the pain—physical and emotional—it causes us. But we don't have to be biological parents to think of ourselves as life-bearers. Because we are created in the image of a loving God, we all have the opportunity to share with him in this mystery of life. We are each called to support a culture of life in whatever context we find ourselves.
We Fear Life and Death
For Christians, though, it's not always easy to encourage life around us. We live in a culture that doesn't foster life. In fact, we're pretty backwards when it comes to issues of life. In some states, women cannot legally give birth to their baby in their own home, but they can end their baby's life with a "simple" out-patient procedure. The international demand for trafficked persons—many of them children—grows each year, even as Christian and non-Christians organizations tirelessly combat this societal evil.
We fear life. Children are seen as a burden. They get in the way of our careers, our ambition. They make a mess of our bodies, our homes, and our lives. We even fear certain lives in our society because we don't understand their struggle. People with disabilities scare us because we don't know how to interact with them. We'll just make a fool of ourselves; we'll be awkward. Or we don't have time to go at their slower pace.
We fear death just as much as we fear life. The thought of visiting a terminally ill person paralyzes us. What might we say to them as their mortality wanes? What feeble words could we possibly offer that would be of comfort? How would we interact with their grieving family?
Somehow these natural processes are distorted in our culture. Rather than taking place in the home, the cycle of life is begun and completed in a foreign, sterile environment. Many of us don't see trafficked, sick, or disabled persons on a regular basis. Therefore, we're not sure how to interact with these issues when we encounter them. We don't know how to give or receive life.
But Jesus did.
The Life-Giving Green Shoot
The prophet Isaiah foretold, "A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse's stump, from his roots a budding Branch. The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding …." Seven hundred years after these words were written, they were fulfilled: Jesus brought life into the dry, godless place that had replaced the once flourishing nation. He burst through the stump-like Israel to bring new life to all who believe in him.
And how did Jesus breathe new life into Israel and all of humanity? By living and dying as one of us, stepping "into our frailty," as worship leader Kathryn Scott writes. Jesus died the death we deserve and lived the perfect life we aren't able to live. Through his life, death, and resurrection, all of us can find redemption for our weary souls and for our world.
Jesus dignified all persons he encountered in gutsy, tangible ways. Born into the rigid culture of the ancient Near East, one with clear social boundaries, he was a radical. He loved unconditionally, recognizing no social, economic, gender, or religious hierarchies. In this way, he humbled himself to elevate and dignify human life as created in his very image.