Advent Week 2: (In)fertility & God’s Kin-dom

The Babe in the Womb, by Leonardo da Vinci. From Wikimedia Commons

Sing childless woman,
Never-given-birth woman;
Woman, break out a song and rejoice, woman, Never-in-labor woman.
For more are the children of the devastated woman
Than the children of the espoused woman,
Says the Giver of Life.

(Isaiah 54; translation from Wilda C. Gafney’s A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, Year A)

In worship yesterday, we told the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist. It’s one of several stories of infertility in the Bible, all of which can be a bit problematic. The grief of infertility for those who want children is very real, as is the stigma laid upon those who choose not to have children.

In Bible stories, miraculous pregnancies and births are the usual sign that God is still with those who feel abandoned, shamed, and shunned. But Isaiah 54 names a different kind of hope. It’s a collective hope for the people of Israel who are in exile, that their descendants will prosper and honor them. People who are not parents are often aunts and uncles, neighbors, teachers, and coaches, who help raise the next generation. Even if others have nothing to do with raising the next generation, they are valuable members of God’s people. This promise is that nothing and no-one is wasted.

Two chapters later, Isaiah makes sure not to leave anyone out: “Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree” (56:3). The promise is not just for biological fertility, but for generativity, purpose, and a future with hope. The bond of the kin-dom is so much deeper than blood relations.

Prayer: God our Spouse, our Giver of Life, create a new family from our fractured world. Amen.

—Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Jr. 

1 thought on “Advent Week 2: (In)fertility & God’s Kin-dom

  1. Pingback: Advent Week 2: “You Brood of Vipers!” | Dave Barnhart

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