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Attending to Advent

December 3, 2008

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week, for many of us it is “hump day.”  We’re over the hump after today and on the way toward the end of the work week.  Wednesday can serve another purpose.  As the mid-point in the week we can use the preceding days as ones of reflection back to Sunday and begin with anticipation to prepare ourselves for the gathering coming in several days.  This rhythm fits well with Advent.  We can give ourselves time to reflect upon and “embed” Advent celebration and begin to anticipate the next Sunday of Advent.

For several days I have been thinking about the rhythm of Advent and the message on November 30.  The idea of “Attending to Advent” came as I listened to the words of a worship song sung during the offering.  Mary attending to Christ as an infant resonated with me but as I listened my thoughts went in a different direction.  What did Mary learn about God as she attended to Jesus?  I’ve never asked that question before and I’m not certain I have any answers…but as we walk through the nativity story and into the gospel I realize I need to attend to what I am learning about God.  Changing my viewpoint (or perspective) if you will might open my eyes (our eyes?) to see with improved eyesight, understand with deeper comprehension and know God with greater intimacy.

Attending…involves all of our senses, sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.  Attending involves our posture and our position.  There is much for us to attend to these days.  There is anticipation and fear, there is suffering and joy, and there is companionship as well as a sense of aloneness…all of this is present.  Are we attending to God’s movement in our midst?  Lord what are you birthing?  As you are present with us, what do You see?  Where do You want to go?  What do You have to teach us?  How do we need to be redirected to be on Your path?  It seems throughout history God is always actively anticipating, preparing and providing for his people and for all people to be his people.

The Advent message last Sunday focused on Mary’s courage as the “Third Response.” There is no doubt that Mary responded to the angel’s news with courage.  Courage was required throughout her lifetime.  But as I have been reflecting upon the courage of Mary I am drawn to the source of her courage, her faith.  Mary did not have courage first, she first had faith–Elizabeth filled with the Spirit spoke to Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. (Luke 1:45).  Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46). Mary’s response to her situation was not fear, bewilderment yes. Courage was part of Mary’s character, what her courage resulted from is something to attend to.  Mary trusted God. Faith and trust are companions.  The source of her faith and trust?  Perhaps it was knowing that she was loved by God. John wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (I John 4:18). John knew Mary, on the cross Jesus instructed him to be her son – to care for her and provide for her. Can we wonder if Mary’s life impacted John as he saw Mary live a life of trust? Within Mary’s response is the abiding reality of relationship, “for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48-49).

As I attend to Advent I am realizing that Mary’s courage was sourced not in herself, in her own effort, nor even within her own personality make-up. I am realizing that the courage within Mary was sourced outside of her and flowed from her understanding of God, his purposes and ways, and a willingness to be the Lord’s handmaiden, ultimately out of relationship with God.

May it be so of me and of us.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. darla permalink
    December 3, 2008 9:55 pm

    Carol,

    I had an interesting experience preparing for advent on Saturday. In looking up passages, and reading different advent websites I discovered that in some traditions they focus on freedom from oppression, and preparing for “the day of the Lord” or “judgment day,” on the first Sunday of advent. I had always centered on baby Jesus – my “personal” Lord and Savior, and not the “messiah” during advent, so was surprised by this focus. Interestingly, Mary would have been expecting her child to be the Messiah – the king who would reign over Israel and the world and not as the Lord and Savior for all.

    Thinking of Christ coming in the Christian sense then, took me not only to his first entrance, but to his second coming. It took a different spin in reflection – more about “am I ready for Christ’s second return?” versus “am I ready for Christmas?” On Saturday evening as our community/church read the passages aloud over our “worship at the table,” I was struggling with my desire focus on the joys of Christmas – the celebration. But that is not until week 3 in advent. I did not want to focus on the need for a messiah. I wanted to skip over the fallen nature of humanity, and the oppression we bring to ourselves and others, and center on joy. Now I see that hope has no meaning without oppression. In order to experience hope, we need to experience oppression.

    attending to hope in advent,

    darla

  2. pathwayjourneys permalink*
    December 3, 2008 11:04 pm

    Darla…
    Thank you for sharing with us your insights, your struggle, and your honesty as you walk with your faith community. You’re right we really don’t focus on needing a Messiah…Thanks for opening up for deeper understanding .. you’ve given me food that is not easily swallowed! I am grateful. Your words remind me of John the Baptist… really important preparation for our hearts if we are to receive.
    Thank you.
    I will join with you in attending to hope in advent…
    Carol

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