Reclaiming Advent as the Season of the Midwife | Sojourners

Reclaiming Advent as the Season of the Midwife

As we anticipate the birth of Jesus Christ, we must remember that God appeared in these tender places — in human flesh, in the womb of a refugee, at the site of vulnerability and oppression.
An ancient illustration of Mary giving birth to Jesus with the help of midwives as they are surrounded by animals.
“The Nativity,” from Ethiopian manuscript Nagara Māryām (1730-1755)

IN THE EIGHTH season of Call the Midwife, set in post-war east London, nuns and nurse midwives of Nonnatus House assist a woman with severe complications from a “backstreet” abortion. Sister Julienne says to a young nurse, “The word ‘midwife’ means ‘with-woman.’ A woman in that situation needs somebody by her side.”

I’m pro-choice, which was an unpopular stance in the Catholic community I grew up in. For my views on reproductive rights, people in youth group called me a “baby killer” and “Pontius Pilate.” During Advent, specifically, I loathed the hollow teachings on Mary and childbirth. We sanitized the Nativity into a cute story — the equivalent of a Disney movie featuring a white family and a manger crowded with men. Only recently did I learn that some scholars believe that midwives attended Jesus’ birth. As reproductive freedom and care are further undermined in the United States, this is an apt time to reclaim a more feminist view of the Nativity and rethink Advent as the season of the midwife.

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A graphic illustration of Vanessa Nakate, a young Black female activist with shoulder-length black hair and a jacket. She holds a megaphone; an orange background with blue, green, and red geometric shapes is behind her.
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