FYI, You’re Pregnant — Day 22




At Harvard and most other divinity schools and seminaries, you hear a lot of big words thrown around that mean nothing to the outside world.  I remember that my first semester at Harvard, I brought my laptop to every class, not because I couldn't take notes by hand, but because I wanted dictionary.com open and ready for the barrage of words that I would hear and need to secretly look up.  I was terrified that someone was going to ask me what my soteriology was, and what hermeneutic I used to come to that conclusion Biblically... and I would just blankly stare at them, thereby revealing myself for who I really was: an average gal who somehow squeaked into Harvard.

Though I certainly didn't have the best vocabulary at Harvard, I have always loved words and names nonetheless.  I'm a big fan the NPR show, A Way With Words, which is a playful discussion of idioms and etymology. I relish hearing stories of etymology, learning the history of words and the interesting stories about from where they come.  And I admit it; I used to peruse the dictionary as a kid... for fun!  (Geek!!!)

Of all the obscure words and jargon I learned at Harvard, my very favorite word, however, would have to be theotokos.  If you know any Greek, you might be able to guess what theotokos means.  "Theo" means "God" in Greek, and gives us words such as theology, theophany, atheist, theocracy, and and theodicy.  "Tokos" means to bear, bring forth, or to give birth.  So theotokos means literally, God-bearer.  And who from our Christmas story was God-bearer, the one who bore God and gave birth to him?  Mary.  So the Greek Orthodox for centuries have used the word "theotokos" to speak of Mary, to honor her as the miraculous human God-bearer in the Advent story.

But what I love about theotokos is the second layer of meaning.  Mary was the original theotokos, but who is theotokos today?  Who is bearing God within them and giving birth to Christ in our world here and now?  We all are.  You are theotokos.  You are the womb of the living God.  You are carrying Christ inside you.  It is your joyful responsibility to bring Christ forth into this world.

So when you hear this Christmas story this year -- no matter if you're a man or a woman -- hear it in a new way in the light of this new word, theotokos.
Perhaps when Mary's story is read on Christmas Even, you might think,
"That's me.
Like Mary, I too have been visited by God.
Like Mary, I too am fearful at first
yet joyful at the blessed responsibility put upon me,
the privilege of bringing Christ into this world.
Like Mary, I too am on a long journey,
and the job I face won't always be easy,
but it will bring light to the world.
Like Mary, I too carry the sacred Christ child within me.
Like Mary, I am theotokos."