God exhales and a child is born
Liz Stuart, 25 December 2020
Isaiah 9: 2, 6–7; Luke 2: 1–14
יהוה, which we usually pronounce as Yahweh. The name of God. Some scholars argue that in Hebrew these consonants are actually impossible to pronounce. They can only be breathed. God is breath, God is breathing. God is never separate from creation or ever not creating, because it’s in the nature of God to breathe, to outpour himself and God is never not a saviour because God inhales and draws all into himself.
But this, this is the deepest breath that God has ever taken. He draws in all creation: every creature who has ever been or who ever will be, all time, all space. He sucks in every cell, every atom, every sliver of life and death, the hopes and fears of all the years, and then he breathes and his exhalation blows warm on a woman who feels a spark ignite in her womb, something both familiar and terrifyingly fresh. In her mind she sees the Temple and the curtain in the Temple torn to shreds, and blowing about, dancing on some unseen breath. Between God and us there is now no between. Deep within her, God and humanity are united, sharing breath. She sings because in this new genesis being formed in the universe of her womb, women are no longer silent. ‘Breathe’, the midwife and her spouse cheer. And now God’s breath is the piercing cry of a child, shattering the cosmos into shards of light and love, to be reconfigured in a new creation.
God draws in all creation: every creature who has ever been or who ever will be, all time, all space. He sucks in every cell, every atom, every sliver of life and death.
God exhales and God is born. He comes not to the centre, not to the Temple, not to the comfortable or the privileged. He comes out of sight, on the edges, beyond normality, born among beasts, on the move, with the disreputable. His is the breath of the poor and the oppressed, the marginalised and the unloved. He comes not to order and comfort but to chaos and uncertainty. His is the breath of the anxious and the afraid.
The baby wails, the baby gurgles, the baby softly sleeps, and with every breath he breathes out love and breathes us all into himself, into God. His breath mingles with that of his parents as they hold and rock and feed him. He delights in the hot breath of the animals who surround him and the laughter of the odd characters who peer with awe into his bed. He feels the earth breathing beneath and around him. He breathes, they breathe and in them together, God breathes.
To watch that baby breathing is to see God in all his fulness and in all her being, creating and redeeming. Watch that baby breathing; his breath has created you and redeemed you. His breath catches you up into the divine life. It will sustain you when your own breath fails and you wake to a new dawn on another shore.
יהוה. He now breathes in us and we in him, so breathe with him and in him. Breathe with the beasts, breathe with the earth, breathe with those on the edges, with the anxious and the afraid. Breathe with those who have gone before us and those who will come after us. Breathe with the baby. Breathe out love and in love, and you breathe in God and God breathes in you.
God exhales and a child is born. God inhales and we are redeemed. יהוה. The Word, the breath of life, becomes flesh and pitches his tent among us. Amen.