The Creative Spirit: Mary’s ‘Yes’

Williamsburg silversmith shop. SJG photo.

Today I begin a new series of reflections about the role of the Spirit and of spirituality in the life of the creative person. Whether you are a professional artistic type, an occasional poet/artist/craftsperson or someone who just thinks that maybe there’s something deep inside them waiting to come out, I hope you’ll find in this series some inspiration that will move you toward recognizing the ideas germinating within you and putting down words and images that will enable you to share them with others.  For that’s the role of the artist, to bring ideas to life.

I am up before the sun today, waiting to greet a busy day in these waning days of December, trying to latch on to an early-morning idea that will spur my brain into its creative mode. I’m trying to conceive, looking for a spark of something.

The gospel reading for today is one we all know. We’re only a few days from Christmas here in 2014, but this story from the very beginning of Luke’s gospel finds Mary before her child has even been conceived, confronted by an idea and a voice saying:

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

And she replies: “Really? I don’t think so. I’m not really prepared for that and, by the way, I’m a virgin, so…thanks anyway.”

But this voice is calm and insistent and is having none of her initial hesitance: “Ah, but this isn’t about you. This is about God in you. It may seem impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.”

And Mary answers with a simple, “yes.”

Smith's shop in Williamsburg. SJG photo.

It’s the beautiful beginning of the story of the Incarnation, and as I read and reflect on it this morning I am reminded that Mary’s “yes” to this conception serves as the perfect model for the creative process, for all of us who sense something moving and growing inside us. I will never conceive and bear a child, and yet I must be willing to accept and nurture the fruits of the Spirit that have been planted deep within me. The creative and artistic process requires a willingness to move beyond “I’m not really equipped for this and don’t yet have all the right experiences” to a simple “yes.”

The incarnation of Christ in the form of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and born to a virgin is the ultimate metaphor for all who create. It’s unexpected and new. It’s a bit dramatic and filled with poetry and startling images. It’s unbelievable and yet contains the truth. As we sometimes say when astonishing things happen in real life: “You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.”

That the nativity is a great metaphor for the creative process doesn’t make it any less real, and the incarnation (the word becoming flesh) of Christ didn’t stop when Mary gave birth. The incarnation continues in all of us, and it’s a particularly vivid reminder of the responsibility of all who create.

As we arise each day and search for ideas and meaning and insights, as we face empty screens and journals and canvases and sketchbooks, the Word (co-present with God since before the creation of the world) moves around inside us and kicks us like an unborn child aching and yearning to see the light of day. We give birth because of his birth. We create because we have been created.

Speaking of light, it’s starting to fill the world around me. I’ve turned an hour or so of darkness into something new. That’s all God asks of us.

Ask yourself in silence: What’s inside me that’s aching to come out?

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