Christmas with Ann Voskamp: When Christmas Stretches You

To get our hearts ready for Christ’s birth, Ann Voskamp is writing for us, celebrating the holiday that’s all about Jesus. Join us as we anticipate the coming of our savior.

All day I pray to be a womb for God.

On the way through the early blue light to the dentist, I whisper it to Father, “A womb, Lord. Make me a womb for you. Come dwell in me.”

When we come home from the appointment to crusty bowls still on the table and the entrails of scarves and mittens and boots flung everywhere, I remember and pray it in earnest, the arms filling with the strewn innards, the words coming breathless like a woman made heavy, “A womb, Lord, a womb, a dwelling place for You.”

It’s when the phone rings, supper hour and I’m caught off guard, that I forget.

I don’t even remember that I have forgotten until afterward, after dinner and after our nightly advent readings, when we light the candles on the The Way of Light Wreath and the figurine of Mary who is swollen with the Child lumbers ever closer to her deliverance.

Littlest One counts the holes of our spiral Advent wreath, the candlelit evenings we have already passed. “Nine nights of waiting…” She methodically counts the remaining carved cups for candles. “And just…13, 14, 15… sixteen more nights and Mary will be in Bethlehem!”

She clenches her hands in giddy glee and it’s not about waiting for gifts, but waiting for the Child, and she turns and says to me knowingly, her head slightly tilted, her nod and smile so certain, “I know it didn’t take her 24 nights to really go to Bethlehem. It’s just the way we count the waiting… right, Caleb?”

“Yep.” Caleb’s rocking chair creaks. He leans forward to straighten one of the candles. “Did you move Mary a bit closer, Shalom?”

It’s when she reaches for the wooden figure of Mary that I remember. I see the swelling silhouette of Mary there on the back of the donkey and the starkness of it strikes me, what it really means to be a womb.

Mary’s distended. Her skin is pulled taut. Her belly swells round and her abdomen bulges and she is drawn to the outer rim of herself.

Mary’s stretched.

To be a dwelling place of God, a womb for Christ, means to be extended, taken to one’s outer edges… stretched.

To be a womb for God means there will be stretchmarks.

This may hurt. I may feel weary. These days may not be easy.

I reach out and touch Mary full with Child and I hurt in the knowing: A true Christmas, one that God indwells, will experience pangs and pain. Kids will cry and siblings will bicker and relationships will grow taut and there will be days where nothing goes right and the season rather dissolves into one sloppy, muddy puddle.

And this Christmas, I’ll be stretched thin and I will feel myself asked to love to the furthest edges of myself, asked to extend grace to the outermost reaches—because how else can I grow full and large and round with God?

To be a womb for Christ, I’ll feel my inner walls, my boundaries, stretch.

Stretching the shape of a soul hurts.

Little One waits long before she blows out the candles on one more peaceful night of our advent waiting.

I linger with her in the flickering light and I pray.

I pray for those pregnant with Christ this Christmas, those who will extend themselves for difficult family members, those who will let God take them to the utmost extremity of selflessness.

For women who will be heavy with the grace-child.

I pray that for me when I’m in the midst of six chaffing kids and I feel utterly discouraged and the season seems to be dissolving into one soppy, muddy puddle—to give way and let God enlarge me.

I pray for the willingness to return a phone call—to let go of the stiff sides of my heart that God might stir within.

I pray for the soul stretchmarks.

Little One leans over the figurine of Mary and blows out the candles.

And I am expecting Christ.

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife, the home-educating mama to a half-dozen exuberant kids, and author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, a New York Times bestseller, and new this month, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Named by Christianity Today as one of 50 women most shaping culture and the church today, she’s a writer for DaySpring, a speaker with Women of Faith, and a global advocate for needy children with Compassion International. Ann loses library books, usually has a sink full of soaking pots, and sees empty laundry baskets rarer than a blue moon.

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