Saturday, December 3, 2016

feeling the heart of advent II...

Tomorrow marks the second Sunday in the season of Advent. This year, for reasons too
obvious to note, we are exploring its penitential origins - a winter Lent, if you will - so that we might rejoice in the bold and terrifying beauty of Christ's birth.  Fr. James Martin put it like this on Krista Tippett's essential podcast, "On Being."

... It's a terrifying story. In terms of what they had to undergo. And it's also, I have to say, it is a shocking story. It's not just a baby. It is God being born in human form. And it's just as shocking as the resurrection. And I think we've tamed it. And in a sense it doesn't demand our belief. We can just kind of look on it, and say, well, that's cute. But if you say to people do you believe that that is God incarnate in that stable? What does that mean for you, that God comes to us as the most helpless being that you could imagine? You know, sort of crying, and wetting his pants, and needing to be nursed. What does that say to us about who God is for us, and how God is for us, and how much God loved us to do that. And that, I think is an entirely different story than, you know, the — the kind of Christmas-cardy stuff that we see.

That is certainly the Christmas I am readying my heart, soul and flesh for this year: the one that invites me to cherish God's sacred presence in every part of creation - the one that calls me to honor my devotion by sharing with others the tenderness I just enjoyed with my grandson Louie as I bathed him and fed him and cared for his little body in the middle of the night when he came down with a cold - and never be stingy with the ferocious protectiveness I felt for him as we walked home from play school on a busy and even wild street.
In Tippett's interview she quotes Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island with the question for this Advent: "Why do we spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be? If only we knew what we wanted. Why do we waste our time doing things which, if we only stopped to think about them, are just the opposite of what we were made for?” Tomorrow, during worship, I'll encourage those who gather to open themselves to love's vulnerability. Tomorrow, after worship,  I will head off to the hospital with a renewed sense of purpose knowing that I can't do anything but share a bit of quiet love. And when I get home, maybe I'll find the juice to put up our little white lights as a sign of our commitment to beauty and our resistance to the fear and hatred that is waiting just beyond the light. The Old Testament text for tomorrow comes from Isaiah 11 - and rings true to me this night on so many levels.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

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