John 3:1-17

Birth. It’s a frightening, beautiful, painful, wonderful, messy thing… for both the one being born and the one doing the birthing. I remember anticipating the birth of both of my children, waiting for that day. I wanted it to happen, but part of me wished we could skip the birthing part and go right to the moment when I could hold my baby in my arms. Couldn’t they born without all that work and pain, that whole awful process?

As I read through this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, it occurred to me that the one being born doesn’t do a blessed thing! They are curled up, all warm and cozy in the womb, being fed and held in the darkness. And then they are pushed out, forced out into this cold, scary new world. They didn’t decide to come out; they didn’t walk out or crawl out. Mom pushed them out! The little baby has no control or say in the process. It’s a good thing, to be born, but it’s not easy or comfortable for anyone involved. It means leaving the old and familiar behind, and beginning something new, a life filled with possibility (and also danger). No wonder we cry (I’m talking about mother and baby here)!

So what exactly is going on here, as Jesus talks about being re-born from above? Being re-born is not something Nicodemus can do, even he knows that. What is Jesus asking of him? Jesus speaks of wind and water, things invisible and visible, images from creation and from Israel’s history with God. He speaks of healing and light. I remember the importance of breath in labor. I remember when my water broke, and we knew it was time to go to the hospital. I remember my babies’ eyes squinting as they got used to all the lights in the hospital. I remember the instant sense of relief when labor was over.

What if we thought about God’s work in the world as labor and birth? God birthed the world at creation. God birthed the people of Israel at the Exodus. And since sin entered the world, God has been laboring to save all of creation. In Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, God gives us birth again. From darkness to light. Through no work of our own, no strength of our own, we are born again. It’s not something we can do. God labors, God pushes, God breathes, God works to remake us and give us new life. Perhaps it even causes God great pain to do this work of extraordinary sacrificial love.

But again, what is Jesus asking of Nicodemus? Perhaps he’s asking Nicodemus (and us) to submit to the process, to welcome the light, to let God do God’s work in us. How can we as individuals submit to God’s work today? And how can we as a church continue to submit to God’s work?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer Hershberger
    Apr 29, 2008 @ 08:10:56

    Just found this post… some time after you wrote it! 🙂

    Made me reflect on the fact that if the baby is not born on time, it is in danger of dying. The placenta is no longer enough for it’s needs and the baby cannot be sustained in the womb. The birth is necessary for continued life. How true this is when we think of the eternal nature of our soul and spirit.

    If not for this rebirth into the light and life of Christ, we have no hope; we will perish.


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