Saturday, December 10, 2005

Advent: Pregnant with God

In his entry, "Yielding to God", Philip Britts considers the response of Mary when the angel told her that God would give her a child. She said...

Behold the handmaiden of the Lord;
be it unto me according to your word.

This most spiritual moment wasn't marked by Mary's activity (working to bring something to God) but her humbly receiving what God had brought to her. And as every pregnant woman soon realizes, this new life overtook and dominated her own; not in a bad way, not in a way that detracted from her life or robbed her of her identity. But in a way that added to who she was and her purpose in life. The sacrifice she made brought meaning and fullness to her life.

As humans, we tend to want to do things to manufacture some kind of spiritual experience. We will travel to holy places, light candles, offer prayers, wear crosses, read the Bible, etc., etc. - all fine and good- but if we are doing those things in hopes of earning God's favor or bringing his presence into our lives, we've missed the point. Britts says...

It is not that we, as pilgrims, climb to a celestial city,
but that the Christ child is born in the poverty of our hearts.

That is, God purposefully comes to us because there's nothing that we can do that will get us to him. And notice how Jesus came - in the most accessible form possible. There is nothing more approachable than a baby and no where more available than in a stable (He could have been born in a royal courtyard surrounded by guards).

This Advent, put aside your religious chores and simply receive the presence of Jesus. Then, let him fill every part of your heart and mind until he is "birthed" in your life.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Advent: The Shame of Inactivity

Loretta Ross-Gotta is our author du jour. She goes straight for the jugular when she challenges our need to be active instead of waiting for God. She says that we fear doing nothing. We fear that ...

this offering of oneself for God to be the actor, cannot possibly be enough. It all seems so passive. Do something, produce, perform, earn your keep. Don't just sit there.

Loretta challenges us to be more like Mary as she waits for Jesus to be born in us...

We create holy ground and give birth to Christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious Infinite One who stirs within. This requires trust that something of great and saving importance is growing and kicking its heels in you.

The greatest challenge from Loretta may be her parting words. She suggests that we risk it all by not engaging in any of the cultural aspects of Christmas. No presents, no lights, no decorating. No worrying about uncle Fred's obnoxious behavior or if the sweater you bought for Michelle is the right color. Instead she imagines attending a church service, void of carols and candles, to only focus on the presence of God...

All of that would seem gaudy and shallow in comparison to the sanctity of that still sanctuary. And we, hushed and awed by something greater and wiser and kinder than we, would kneel of one accord in the stillness. A peace would settle over the planet like a velvet coverlet drawn over a sleeping child...We would be filled with the fullness of God...What if, instead of doing something, we were to be something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.

It's probably telling of us as a people, but simply being the dwelling place of God isn't enough for us. We seem to need the bells and whistles

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Advent: God Comes to Shake Us

It's interesting to read a book where a different author gives their own perspective on Christmas. Today, Alfred Delp, shares his thoughts as a prisoner in Hitler's prison, condemned to death for his opposition to Hitler's regime. He was hanged in 1945. Delp was a Jesuit priest.

From his war torn perspective, Advent wasn't a time when God comes gently. Advent was a time when God comes and shakes you up. He was convinced that Hitler was being used by God to show the world it's weak foundation. He then says...

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth...

...God's coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken, if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly...Advent is a time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves.

Delp concludes by encouraging those that have been shaken to become messengers of peace to those living in the tumult of the day. People need to look at their lives from God's perspective otherwise they will be overcome with the despair of the day.

Thankfully we aren't in prison this Christmas but we may be in self-made prisons of hate or addiction or depression. Let Advent be a time when God shakes you up. Let God show you your weak foundations that you might be strengthened. And then may you be one that is sent out to encourage others to experience the same.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Advent: Love Comes to Earth

December 4th's reading in Watch for the Light is from Madeleine L'Engle. She says that you really can't explain the incarnation (God becoming human) but she wonders...

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?

She goes on to say that God abandoned his power to become powerless in Jesus - identifying with the frustration of being human - and then continues...

Christ...the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God's image.

It's because of this that we have hope - for both today and the days to come. We are never stuck. As long as we look for his coming there is always hope of our lives being transformed.