Just over eight years ago I was a PhD student, an ordinand (priest-in-training), and five months pregnant. The pregnancy was on course; it looked like this baby was really going to be born. So I needed the relevant information on maternity leave for Ordinands, what would happen to my funding, housing allowances etc., ... you know the kind of thing.
I went up to see my tutor at Theological College - a kind and humorous woman, who could be formidable when necessary. I discovered that to date, there was no policy on maternity leave or funding breaks for pregnant Ordinands. I don't think I was the first woman to have a baby mid-training, but there had been so few thus far that there wasn't any established pattern. I sat in my tutor's study while she phoned the relevant grant-awarding bodies, Diocesan and National offices, trying to get some kind of game plan together. After some long, frustrating phone calls, I heard the mumbling of a man's voice at the other end of the phone, and then my Tutor's terse reply: 'It may well be that you don't have any policies. But what you don't seem to understand is that the birth of this baby can not be postponed. This baby will be born in four months' time whether you have policies or not.'
I like the fact that the coming of God into our world was realised in something as inconvenient, unpredictable and untidy as the birth of a baby. A baby will be born when it's ready. It makes no difference whether we are ready for it (who is ever 'ready' for a baby?). But regardless of policies, theologies and leadership structures, and irrespective of postmodern theories and conventions and housegroups, God will come and be born in our world.
Birth is a great leveller. It is always messy and inconvenient, painful and undignified. It is usually joyful, often frightening, sometimes tragic. It happens to those who are ready and those who are not. Babies break up the order of our lives, and defy the plans of even the most organised of mothers-to-be. Birth isn't fair or controllable: it sometimes comes quickly and easily to people who are unprepared, and with agonised diffuculty to those who have a meticulous birth plan.
So it is with God. He will be born in our world whether we're ready or not, deserving or not, prepared or not. The incarnation of God will defy our plans, upset the organised, and come with ease and rapturous joy to undeserving sinners and the poor in spirit.
'Now let your love be born in us,
O come, Lord Jesus, Come.'