New Birth

New birth brings new life. We see this in the Christmas story, in the birth of children, and in our own rebirth in Christ.

In pure, opened hearts the Word wants to become flesh and life. This takes place, however, with great fright and trembling, as it did in Mary when she heard God’s will from the angel. In us, too, the Word must be born. In us, too, this cannot happen except through pain, through poverty and misery, inward and outward.

New birth brings new life. When the Word is born, when it becomes flesh in us, then we live for love and its fruit; then we live only for God.

The Christ child born of the virgin Mary therefore serves as a pattern for all new birth. Christ’s birth is not only our pattern or example; it is a miracle that happened once and yet still occurs ever anew, even though in an entirely different way. Every baby born to followers of Christ should be born out of the mystery of the Spirit and pass through the life of the church to the final mystery of the kingdom. This is so wonderful and glorious that we can only marvel at it.

It is not surprising then that when a newborn comes into the world, the father and mother themselves may experience a renewal of inner growth. Every baby should turn us to the mystery of the birth of Jesus whereby an entirely new beginning is made through the Holy Spirit, just as it was with Mary.

Through Mary the incarnation of the Word took place. With us weaker human beings the Word comes in a different way: The ever-renewed birth of the Christ child in our hearts remains as decisive for our lives as the ever-renewed acceptance of Jesus’ teachings, of his miraculous power to heal and to drive out wicked spirits of temptation. This birth is as decisive for our lives as the ever-renewed acceptance of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. It is as decisive as the ever-renewed decision to follow his life. It is as decisive as the ever-renewed acceptance of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit in whom the whole future of his tremendous reality in his coming kingdom is given to us.

Adapted from When the Time Was Fulfilled (Walden, NY: Plough, 2007).

Article edited for length and clarity. The original can be read in our digital archive: meeting transcript,, October 14, 1934.