Love and Birthing: A Fourth Advent Homily
And so our Advent season is drawing to a close, with the fourth and final week. Our themes this year are Love and Birthing, represented by our Mormon Saint Emma Smith. In between finishing up final projects and papers and working out my students’ grades, I’ve been puzzling over how we should incorporate Emma into the conversation this year.
Birthing as a companion theme to Love reminds me that Love can and should be a verb, that we should Love other people—God, our neighbors, even our enemies. The joining of these two serves to remind me that this work of Loving is not easy, just as Birth is not easy, that sometimes pain and suffering may be involved, but a productive, essential pain and suffering. I’m not saying that Love requires abuse or violence, but that to truly Love other people takes great work and that that work may often hurt.
Part of the difficulty of Love is how it may look to others—naïve, silly, misguided. I wonder if this is a piece of what Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:10 that “we are fools for Christ’s sake”. Emma’s story seems relevant here. She Loved Joseph. There seems to be ample evidence of their deep and abiding love for each other. Yet, when Joseph started practicing polygamy, he did not share this news with Emma and eventually when she was brought into the circle of knowledge she was, uh, displeased (understandably! I would feel betrayed and hurt and abandoned and livid were I in Emma’s position).
And yet. Emma continued to stand by Joseph, to Love him. At a time when many might call that Love foolish and naïve, thinking that she should have left him, she chose to stay, to keep doing the hard work of Love (other choices could also be choices of Love).
I hope to have the courage, the strength, the faith to Love so deeply that I am a fool for Christ’s sake, like Emma before me.
I am drawn to Emma as an example of Love and Birthing because of the wide range of work that she did for the Saints—President of the Relief Society, putting together the Hymn book—including many wonderful hymns that we still sing today, and otherwise being central to the running of the day-to-day lives of the Saints throughout their sojourn before heading West.
I am drawn to Emma’s enigmatic nature as well, to the way I don’t quite understand her, just as I don’t quite understand Love or what Love requires of me. I think that Love—especially God’s Love—is more wild and big and wonderful and awesome and frightening and challenging and comforting and and and… than I can possibly comprehend.
And I am convinced that it is my work to help embody that Love on the Earth today, to work to make some small piece of God’s unending, eternal, magnificent Love visible and felt in the lives of those around me. Love depends on community and connection, on relationships. I believe the words of Westley, the Dread Pirate Roberts, that “Death can’t stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a little while.”
Love binds us to one another throughout time, weaving some complex time-defying web like the workings of Cooper in Interstellar. This binding links our conversation from the first week about Jane Manning James and Hope and Waiting to this one—Emma’s Love for Jane prompted her to invite Jane to be connected to her and Joseph, sealed. Emma saw Jane and wanted to bring her into their life, for eternity. I hope that they have renewed their bond of fellowship!
I hope to continue to look to Emma for insight into what Love can mean for me and in my own life. I still want to know what Love is, what it means to Love my enemies, how I can truly show Love for God and for my neighbor.
As we move into the final days of Advent and into the twelve days of Christmas, I hope to think about the ways that the birth of Christ embodies this wild Love of God and what the entire Nativity story can tell me about how God is present in my life today and what I can do to better embody His/Her/Their Divine Love to my enemies and neighbors.
As the poets said,
“Can't we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can't we give love that one more chance?
Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love
Give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?”
Let’s all give Love in all its wild unexpected enigmatic ness one more chance.