An Almost-Mother’s Song: A Christmas Poem about Mary

**Originally written and performed for Jazz Worship at Fourth Presbyterian Church – Chicago on Dec. 20, 2015**

When I was fourteen
My biggest fear was the virgin birth
there was nothing on earth
I could imagine worse
I mean, it kept me up with bad dreams
This is a thing, it turns out
for religious girls
fear of a life unasked for
a crash course in unearned “impurity”
and no one to believe.

See, it was all too heady for me then
I wasn’t ready, then
But lately I have been
thinking about Mary
and feeling her in me
and wondering.

I’ve never yet been a mother
so maybe I can’t speak
but then neither had she,
till she was.

What I know is this:
when my nephew was born
my world shifted
it lifted my self-centered haze
And I woke up with nightmares for days upon days
worried for love of this tiny new child
hellbent on sparing him all of life’s trials.

So I wonder

That night, when the angel came
called her by name
and said she’d conceive
by miracle means
And become a mother

That the flutter
in her womb
would soon give birth to God’s son.
Did she shudder?

When he told her:
Fear not God is with thee
Did she want to raise up her brow
and say: Are you kidding?

I wonder how
many fearful thoughts
got caught
in the space
it took her to become
Mary, full of grace.

Did she fear it would hurt?
That the child she’d bear
would tear through her
with pain
even as he came
into this world?

Did she fear he’d get sick or hurt?
Hate her or take after her father?

Did she question if kings
would hate him
and make them
all refugees
forced to flee
for the safety
of other unfriendly lands?

Did she picture his hands
bent in prayer at the temple?
Did she dare to expect
he’d be strong in his faith?
Did she suspect they’d reject him
when he cried out for change?

Could she even imagine
in her mind’s eye
the last time
she’d cradle her son to her chest?
Could she guess he’d be dead?
Did she know that his body
would carry the weight
of a young man unjustly
killed by the state?

Of course she could not have known then
all these things
But no doubt she was worried
what might come to be
So I can’t begin to imagine or dream
of the strength
that compelled her, in the face of all that,
to sing.

My God, she sang brightly
My soul magnifies you
I won’t deny you
I’ll just hold on tightly
to this promise
you’ve made me
this night

See, she chose hope
As the answer to every what if
to this risks, to the list
of new questions that filled her
to the known and unknown,
to it all
to the scope
of her fears,
She chose hope.

This is the wonder of Mary, I think
This is her grace,
She trusts and believes
Not that nothing will happen
no trouble befall her
but to know above all
her God will prevail

That though powers
wage war
And hours seem dark
Still the last word belongs
to the long-bending arc
of justice and love.
that good will drown out
all the hard, hateful things

She believes.
And with courage to open her lips
Mary sings.

We are all almost-mothers
like Mary once was
conceiving within us
the promise of love
We can trust and believe that justice must win
and then
Give birth to the goodness
we were made to create
and bear grace
to a world lost in fear and hate

We too can sing, Mary tells us.
However shaky our voice is
the choice is still ours
to choose hope and to sing and to know we belong
to a God once born from the very same song.

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