First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011
By Marjorie George
“She asked me how I felt about eternal life, and I said, ‘Would I have the same aches and pains I have now? Because that would factor heavily into my decision.’ ” I cannot tell you who said that, but it is the inscription on a piece of artwork (the initials are BJ) that someone gave me several years ago.
I thought of it yesterday when a friend e-mailed me asking for prayers. Her life was unraveling: a relationship she had thought was solid was beginning to show signs of coming apart; a child she had thought was safe from the evils of the world apparently isn’t; an old back ailment is, well, back.
Such is the journey of the Christian – some days it does not look so different from the journey of those who never acknowledge God in prayer.
And yet, I have the audacity to invite you on a journey of Advent, to join the pilgrimage of Christians who are making their way to the manger to gaze upon God incarnate in the person of a baby. I invite you so that you will discover for yourself what the coming of God into the world can mean for you.
In the incarnation, God breaks through into history, and the world is forever changed. In the birth event, God himself meets us on our own turf and shows us that the life abundant is not just Sunday-morning preacher talk. He does not come with off-the-shelf medicine for healing; he does not say it will always be fair, he never promises the easy road. He is better than that – so much better. Look here, says God in Christ, this is how to love, this is how to bring about peace in the world, this is how to experience joy. And this is how to walk with me, always.
But we have to make room in our hearts and in our lives to receive the gift of the Christ child. It won’t do to pile it on top of our getting-ready-for-Christmas demands — (Let’s see, if I DVR the Charlie Brown Christmas story and fast-forward through the commercials, I can squeeze out an extra 11 minutes and fit God in then.)
When, later in his ministry, Christ sent his followers out into the world, he gave them specific instructions: “Take nothing for the journey — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:7-11).
This Advent we are going to take Christ at his word and explore what it means to travel light, to divest ourselves of all that we rely on to make us comfortable. We don’t know what might be revealed to each of us, but we are willing to make room for a possibility of new life, and we have some help along the way.
We will post two reflections by various writers each week, roughly Sunday and Wednesday, throughout Advent. We will tell you about blogs and meditations and daily readings and invite you to investigate them for yourself. We will pass along whatever wisdom we find in our own readings. Most importantly, we invite you to be open to where and how God chooses to reveal himself. And we hope you will tell us about those God-sightings.
We begin with a quote from Kathleen Norris in her essay “Annunciation” from the book Watch for the Light. Norris writes about Mary’s reaction to the news that she will bear the Christ child:
“Mary proceeds – as we must do in life – making her commitment without knowing much about what it will entail or where it will lead. I treasure the story because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God’s love breaks through into my consciousness, do I run from it? Do I ask of it what it cannot answer? Shrugging, do I retreat into facile clichés, the popular but false wisdom of what “we all know”? Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a “yes” that will change me forever?
Please join us, and please let us hear from you. To receive our posts in your e-mail inbox, sign up in the box in the column on the far right. We invite you to forward this post to others.
Explore the rest of our Advent pages and think about which ones call you to act.