Let us prepare our minds as if we had come to the very end of life.
Let us postpone nothing.
Let us balance life’s books every day.
The person that puts the finishing touches on their life each day
is never short of time.
It is an end and a beginning. Many in the Christian tradition celebrate the start of a New Year on the first Sunday of December. It is the season of Advent – the 4 weeks leading to Christmas.
During this time there is focus on anticipation and preparation. As if God is not always around us there is a certain emphasis in Advent on getting ready for God to come among us.
How would we live each day? Would we stay alert? Would we be present to each breath with gratitude?
Four weeks until Christmas… what is most important? How do we live each day with a sense anticipation and a pace that offers plenty of time? These are the questions of Advent.
Stay alert and prepare. This is the practice of Advent.
Quote: Seneca, Moral Letters, 101, 7b – 8a
Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles. Edwin Louis Cole
A most important word – expect. During the last four weeks we have been tuning our abilities to stay alert and expect. In most homes this preparation involves creating a sense of familiar, a comfort in tradition. Trees are decorated and parties are hosted. Families gather to share meals and gifts.
All of this is expected. Yet there is a greater expectation in the air. The kind that fills the earth with a sense of awe and wonder. Against a backdrop of the impossible, behind doors strange and unfamiliar – everything is in place for God’s miracle to come into this world.
A required census, takes Joseph and Mary far from home to be counted in the town of Joseph’s roots.
To imagine for a moment – riding a donkey pregnant and full-term. So many miles — to a place where there are few friends or contacts. They knew no one and struggled to find a place to rest and prepare for a birth. The road was rough. They entered Bethlehem weary and cautious. The baby has begun to make his move and his mother had to find someplace, any place.
In the town considered home to Joseph – there was no place for him to stay with his family.
How can you prepare when so little is in your control? All this time to wait for the expected.
It seems, once again, God knows the way to get the world’s attention. In a barn, behind an inn – He is born. God has come among us in spite of these apparent limitations.
Behind an unfamiliar door, inside an unknown stable – the moment is here. A baby is born.
So it seems that being prepared is different from being in control. We are called to be prepared and to stay alert. The miracle comes in an unexpected place – at an unexpected time.
We have spent three Sundays listening to the strong and powerful voices of wise men and prophets. Men sharing news of what is to come – proclaiming good news and warning of the importance to prepare.
This Sunday the themes of sharing good news and preparation are ever-present yet we now shift to the gentle, honest exchange between two women. Filled with excitement and awe they share their insights. Together they can acknowledge the holy children they each have been called to birth and mother. They can openly share their excitement and concern. They can support one another as they experience the wisdom they have gained, the sacred they now carry.
Elizabeth and Mary greet one another with a sacred kiss and in her elder-wisdom, Elizabeth shelters Mary as she gathers her strength to proclaim God’s good news to the world. The good news that justice will rain down and mercy will be ever known. The scene has changed.
The time is near. As we have heard in the past weeks and here on this fourth Sunday of Advent, all of creation is preparing. May we continue to do the same.
A Blessing Called Sanctuary
You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.
You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.
You learned to sing.
But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found—
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:
that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold, *
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
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 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.