What is left? Prayer…

So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray.
Mary Oliver

On this quite night we come to the most important moments of our Advent journey. We feel the time for slumber with all projects complete and hearts and homes prepared. We were asked to be on alert and to get ready. We have watched for the signs and completed the tasks

But all the preparation leads us to this moment. For like midwives we must stand near, ready for the ultimate job. In/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/751/11099331/files/2014/12/img_1937.jpg prayerful presence as this young baby is born we are here at highest alert – to assist if needed. This is why we have been waiting. This is the moment, all of our preparation leads to ‘now’.

May we stay calm – to draw our breath as it swims inward and exhale as it flows outward; the rhythm of birth and the practice of prayer.

 

The Visit

He Qi

He Qi

Was it a normal day? How would she ever remember? One minute she was sweeping the floor or brushing her hair and the next… Angels arrive. Maybe there was bright light, maybe her ears rang with music – certainly she felt her ground shift.

The angel knew her name and shared God’s greeting. She was blessed and God’s beloved. What did this mean? She was confused and could not understand why the angel stood before her. In turn she was comforted and told not to be afraid (something angels often need to do).

Mary was awakened in the middle of the day, when sleep was not a part of the schedule. Before her stood an angel, an archangel, proclaiming news too remarkable to fathom. Her eyes were open, yet what she saw and heard must have felt like a dream.

This ‘announcing’ visit filled her with a brilliant awareness. As quick as she was visited by this angel, she was once again, alone. She could only comprehend this news with the strength and courage one gets from acting on faith. She did not know the story’s end but was willing to be this important part of its beginning.

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner

These “visits” are filled with the mystery of God’s movement. There is little logic, for we, like Mary, are asked to use our intuition – to step forward in faith.

To dream of angels

Each year our church calendar offers differing perspectives of our faith story during the Lenten season. Feast days – major or minor – stay in place (their dates are set) as the 40 days of Lent and Easter move along with the spring equinox.20120325-015257.jpg

Throughout our Lenten observance we are in preparation for the tense and traumatic days when Jesus, the provider of hope and wholeness, was abused and killed. These days and this part of our story are important but none-the-less horrific. Yet as we round the corner to Holy Week, we hear readings that tell of angels and dreams.

Within this week, one Sunday to the next, we are invited to another time. A time when the news of Jesus’ arrival was only offered to those entrusted to care for him as a baby and nurture him in his growing years. Like bookends – the week begins with Joseph’s feast day and concludes with the celebration of Mary’s hearing of her role in bringing the Good News into our world.

Both were visited by angels. Joseph was awakened in a dream to the importance of his life and commitment to Mary and Jesus. Mary was awakened in the middle of the day, when sleep was not a part of the schedule. Before her stood an angel, an archangel, to proclaim news too remarkable to comprehend. Her eyes were open, yet what greeted her must have felt like a dream.

These “visits” are filled with the mystery of God’s movement among us. There is little logic, for we just like Mary and Joseph, are asked to use our intuition – to step forward in faith. At once we are faced with all the wonder of new life even in the midst of apparent death.

Both of these visitations filled their beholders with brilliant awareness. Joseph was left with a resolve to care for his beloved and be present to his son as mentor and role model. Mary was left knowing that she had accepted an invitation she could only experience with the strength and courage that comes through faith.

Neither knew the story’s end and maybe this is the point. Lest we sit too comfortably in the midst of these next few weeks – may we remember that the story is alive. God continues to move among us and we are best to be prepared – for angels continue to appear, in the most unlikely places.

reflections on this Christmas Eve

What an unlikely place to be on the eve of bearing God’s child!

As if they had not already gone through enough. I wonder what it was like for Joseph and Mary to prepare for this moment. It seems that trying to make any plans was futile. Mary and Joseph began with certain images of what their life would be like. After all they were raised in a close community–they were trained in the tradition of their ancestors–their life would be a mirror of their parents and grandparents. Of course we know the story. Nothing about the life that Mary and Joseph  shared would be like their close relatives.

Nestled in the midst of a town named in the prophets, they would constantly be challenged to comprehend where they belonged. Visited by angels and encouraged by dreams this family would begin with little security and carry with them a different understanding of belonging.

Belonging to a greater community and charged to raise the child who would grow to lead a new “Way”. These parents would always have to step back in the quiet and trust.

What an unlikely place to be on the eve of bearing God’s child! In a stable, far from home – alert and aware. Isn’t it true – in the most uncomfortable moment we can find the greatest strength?! When all of the familiar is torn away, the night sky is brighter and strangers become friends.

The story is told that a child was born tonight. Vulnerable and yet determined – determined to sit in the center of this fragile earth and make it home.

Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be…

(Pre)Occupied

Few have been this preoccupied with tents

since you recklessly pitched one among us.

I would have chosen something more stable,

not quite so porous and vulnerable,

safe, secure, readily significant,

and missed the whisper of evening breezes,

the restless susurration of canvas,

and that one appearing in the shadows,

light flinting off flesh in a fading sun,

fireflies dancing in the night,

rousing my longing

to step into your own

luminous darkness.

The Rev. Jay Johnson – Peculiar Faith