Luke 1: 27-31 The girl’s name was Mary. The angel went in and said to her, “Greetings, most favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was deeply troubled by what he said and wondered what this greeting could mean. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus…”
We begin a new cycle by coming back to the beginning, or perhaps the beginning before the beginning, in this first Sunday of Advent. It is a lovely time for us to reflect on our relationship to and with God. Where we have been. Where we are now. Where we would like to be. A time to reflect on how we should like to be present in this world. Doing God’s work of love and faith…and hope.
It can be a good time to consider ourselves in relationship with God. Who are we when we choose to Walk with God…cycles and movement can make us think of walking (Friday Walks begin again this week for Advent and Christmas). How do we behave differently when we are Walking With, in the presence of, Grace or God? Perhaps this is where some of our images of God as Father and God as Mother come in to play. There’s things you just don’t say when your parents are in the room…or grandparents.
Walking with God develops a relationship where we do our best to be our best versions of ourselves in each moment. As if God is with us. In the room. There are things you don’t say when God feels present, like: “It’s not very Christian, but ___” (or your own personal version of that statement that is often, “it’s not very ___, but ___). We don’t do that when it feels like God is present.
As we begin a new cycle and come back to the beginning: what is our relationship to Grace or God? How does that relationship make us more loving presences in a world that can feel so devoid of love? How can we rebuild … love and … Hope … instead of living in the fear of the unknown.
Advent. This time of new beginnings. The beginning before the beginning. A period of…waiting.
What are we waiting for?
It depends. Each of us is on our own journey and there is more than one response to the stories and the journey and to Grace and to God (God: whatever that means to you).
Kids have a very different response to this journey of waiting. They are waiting for a very different Christmas, perhaps, than we as adults are. Perhaps. But there is still that sense of impatience, excitement, even trepidation…fear. And so much…hope!
Some are waiting for the Messiah. Who is the messiah? When is the messiah coming? What will the messiah mean? Fear…and hope.
These are stories from a people in exile, refugees, conquered peoples, peoples in the midst of the unknown. These are stories of hope in times of fear and the unknown. Advent focuses a lot on the dark and the light, but it is not the dark we fear, but the unknown…that which we can not see…that which we can not know.
Some are simply waiting for the Baby Jesus. New life. New possibility. New Hope. Hope must be tended and cared for…
Luke’s version of the story begins with babies waiting to be born. Waiting. These babies are full of potential and possibility, like every baby. This is a very human journey of waiting. Of waiting for the birth of a child. There is a scariness to the potential and the unknown. There’s fear. And hope. It all weaves together. And a forced Surrender to what is to come. Trust. Hope; the deepest of human hopes.
Tending Hope is to Walk with God. To Surrender and to have Faith. Faith by its very nature is surrounded by unknown. Things we can not see. Things we can not know. God is unknowable. Notice that God sends messengers in the form of angels, shepherds, stars, people, but rarely does God show up. When God does come, God is always hidden, unknown… burning bushes, behind clouds, cloaks, veils, shadows…
Fear and faith. Fear and hope. We have to have faith and hope. Without the unknown, the darkness, the shadow sides, we have less hope and less faith. We do not learn the deepest lessons without fear and uncertainty. The places where we most need hope. We need to tend hope, as if it too is a child. We need to have faith that in the unknowable is so much more goodness. We simply have to open our eyes and hearts to better see.
Advent represents a time of uncertainty and hope. What are we waiting for? Will it fulfill our desires? Our needs? Our wellspring of Grace?
Remember that it’s not the darkness or even the uncomfortableness that we struggle with. It’s the unknown and the key is holding on to Hope through the unknown. And also, being with the scary and the uncomfortable. It is what we, ourselves, do in the unknown. What we do when we are afraid and unable to see and hear and feel our way.
Turning to the known. Often when the unknown reveals itself, we choose not to see. We choose not to see.
The darkness…AND the light are not always easy. And, yet, we need both to be full and complete.
Prayers are often answered in unexpected ways. It is not to make our lives “better”. God answers prayers to make us stronger and more faithful. We are meant to be uncertain, so that we can shore up our own faith and hope.
Look at the women in the beginning of Luke’s story. Sometimes, the light shines and we’re afraid to shine. Look at Mary, she is unmarried, a virgin, and asked to carry the son of God. That light has opened her to ridicule and shame. Opened Joseph to ridicule and shame. Imagine what she is in for? But when she accepts, there is possibility!
Elizabeth has been barren her whole life and only when she is old is she blessed with a child. A whole life of shame and ridicule, then, the light shines upon her. Imagine what she is in for? But when she accepts, there is possibility!
How do we respond when the light shines on us and we are seen? There is possibility. Possibility of shame and ridicule. But also the possibility to shine. How do we respond to being “seen”. Do we shrink or grow?
It is not meant to be easy. We are meant to trust and do the work. Whether in the dark or the light. Whether in the known or the unknown.
Creation. New beginnings. New possibility. Advent is the time of waiting. The opposite of destruction is creation. This is a time of creation. In times of destruction and division…what can we create? What does Grace ask of us?
Can we have hope and trust in what will unfold? What is to come? Can we Walk with God and in the known, and the unknown of possibility? Can we open ourselves to ridicule and shame and to shine? Can we do the work and accept? When we accept, that is when possibility unfolds…
It’s scary, who might we become if we walk with Grace every moment of our lives with love and hope and faith.
As we watch the miracle unfold…who will this baby become….
As we watch a new cycle unfold…who will we become…