Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Jenny Williams, in this article for the Ekklesia Project, lifts up Mary as someone who was faithful to God in, really, a smallish way. It had real and serious, life-changing consequences for her, but what was at work through God was way beyond her. While acknowledging that the Christmas story is about salvation on a cosmic scale, she gives us this provocative quote: "But I wonder if this Sunday is a time to instead give credit to the small acts of subversion that we really don’t see as subversive at all, or that come from places or people who do not see themselves as subversive."

I wonder, along with her, if this Advent, we're called to give special attention to the ways each of us is able to do the work of Mary and Elizabeth. Our scripture, from Luke's gospel, tells of Mary--having just had her encounter with the Angel Gabriel and having just assented to God's mysterious work in her--fleeing for the hills, to be with her cousin Elizabeth. There, Elizabeth recognizes the powerful mystery at work in her.

I think there's space for both kinds of actions: being willing to be bearers of the Holy Spirits work in our world (like Mary) and being willing to name, acknowlege and celebrate the Holy Spirit's work in others (like Elizabeth). Powerful.

Our Christmas stories have so much to offer in terms of hope and possibility. This week, they made me think of a story from Barbara Kingsolver that I read several years ago, and have posted as in the entry below. Enjoy!

Small Wonders: Nature, Stillness, Foreign Policy | Barbara Kingsolver | Orion Magazine

Small Wonders: Nature, Stillness, Foreign Policy | Barbara Kingsolver | Orion Magazine

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Waiting

Originally uploaded by alan(ator)
Since Advent is a season of waiting, and since I hate waiting rooms, long waits and generally have a negative conception of "waiting," I thought I ought to dig a bit deeper in this.

Turns out, "wait" has a wonderfully rich history of definition. Entries on the word span 5 pages in my old OED. The first definition clues me in that something is going on here: "In various phrases with the general sense: To take up a concealed position in order to make an unforeseen attack, or to be in readiness to intercept one's enemy or intended prey in passing; to lurk in ambush."

Perhaps our Advent waiting is more than just killing time until Christmas--delaying the celebration so that we can have had the appropriate (and probably holy) period of restraint.

Maybe the kind of "waiting" that a waiter does is more apt--tending to, preparing for, watching for Christ's coming.

But there are other fabulous definitions of wait. My favorites involve music: first, in 1300, a watchman who would sound an alarm by horn or trumpet. Then, by 1430, a watchman attached to the royal household who would sound the royal trumpets. In 1438, it was used for a small band of wind instrumentalists, kept by a city for festive occasions, often strolling the streets. In 1773, it was used for a band of musicians and singers who would roam the streets near Christmas and the New Year, playing carols and seasonal music (!).

Waiting, in most of the 5 pages of entries, is much more than mere delay. It implies watchfulness and readiness for something big happening. Maybe there's even trumpets.