As Advent comes to a close….

My Advent reflections here are based on the scriptures in the Christian Liturgy for this Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:2-5a, Psalm 80:1-7, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:39-55. The Psalm is especially meaningful right now, as we feast on tears through this latest slaughter in Newtown. But the Psalm is also perennial in its meaning, as we long for something more every year in this Advent season. God’s coming into the world will wipe every tear away (cf. Revelation 7, et. al.), this is one of the most prevalent visions throughout scripture. Despite how terrible things look right now, we have the faith and the hope that God will transform all of creation into something new and more abundant.

Still, one of the grand takeaways from the Advent scriptures is that God can’t, and won’t, do this on Her own. WE all have a part to play in this. Our Advent waiting is not passive, and our preparations for God’s coming have very little to do with our own personal salvation. We wait and prepare because we are all responsible for the transformation of the universe in some way. God has commissioned all of us to help, and this completion of creation won’t come about unless we all do what is required of us. Jesus has done his part, as described in the Hebrews passage. Now, as the Body of Christ, Jesus’ Present(s) on earth, it’s our turn.

Mary embodied this as well in the part she played for God. I’ve talked this in part in a previous un-Sermon. These stories of Jesus’ parents continue to amaze me, as they say so much about the ways God needs us to act in the world. And Mary’s words in this Gospel passage….as familiar as Zechariah’s song, because it’s sung every Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. Wow. Let’s see it word for word, listen to what she’s really saying here:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God, my salvation.
For he has shown me such favour –
me, his lowly handmaiden.
Now all generations will call me blessed,
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
His name is holy,
his mercy lasts for generation after generation
for those who revere him.
He has put forth his strength:
he has scattered the proud and conceited,
torn princes from their thrones;
but lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
he has remembered his mercy as he promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

It’s already tremendous enough that Mary, at probably around 13-14 years old, has decided to face ridicule and possible death by getting pregnant outside of marriage. That’s why she’s so clever in taking off to her cousin’s, can’t get put to death if no one really knows what happened!
Now look at what she says about her situation, describing things very similar to Micah’s proclamation in the first reading- God’s coming will take place in the most unexpected ways, in places very few could ever imagine God being present and involved. Read as well what the Qur’an has to say about this birth narrative in Sura (chapter) 19, named al-Maryam, after Mary (that’s right, there’s more about Mary in the Qur’an than in the New Testament!). Different narratives pointing to this same Truth, another vision so prevalent in scripture- God doesn’t really care that much about the rich and powerful, nor does She have many good things to say about them. If you wanna find where God is on the move, and the people involved in these new comings of God into the universe to bring about its transformation, don’t look to those in charge. In fact, those of us in charge are gonna have our asses handed to us by God’s actors in the world.

God will come into the world through a knocked-up teenage girl, giving birth in a cave in some hillbilly town, and She will speak through her! Mary’s Song has that power. She is God’s voice, and what she/She has to say does not fit well into the accepted order of things. People like me who have all the food and riches they could ever desire will not be real happy about what God will do when She comes. It will be an Adventus that will transform everything, especially the way people have ordered things. And God will triumph, finally, over those rich and powerful, who will finally see whose side God is on; over everything evil that opposes the ways of God, in ways more terrible and terrific than any misinterpretation of Mayan astronomy or Zombie philosophy could ever imagine.

Remember that, my friends, as we sing so somber and sweet about silent nights and heavenly peace over the next few days. I have a feeling God’s turning of the tables that Micah and Mary prophesy about won’t be so quiet. What do you think?….

2 Comments

  1. I have thought much about your comments here and I need some assistance in trying to understand your theology behind what you’ve written. With all due respect, could you please direct me to passages in Scripture that support this theology?

    1) When you say: “God has commissioned all of us to help, and this completion of creation won’t come about unless we all do what is required of us. Jesus has done his part, as described in the Hebrews passage. Now, as the Body of Christ, Jesus’ Present(s) on earth, it’s our turn.” I believe I understand you to mean that we all have a part. Yet, to say that “this completion” won’t come about unless we do our part is to say that God needs US. Isn’t this limiting His Sovereignty to say that he actually needs us to fulfill His purposes? That’s scary! To follow that logic all the way through would mean that He actually isn’t in control at all. He just hopes that we do what He wants us to do. Well, we are sinners, we won’t do His will apart from the guidance and aid of the Holy Spirit. Now, to say that He chooses to use us is different. He will aid us, but we still may fail; yet, this can not and will not interfere with His ultimate purpose. If we are unfaithful, He will still bring about His sovereign plan and will (and actually since He is all-knowing He already knew we would fail, and thus had already made a way. He proved this in the Garden!) Wouldn’t you agree?

    2) Could you please help me to understand how God can be given any female traits? I see you often refer to Him as “She”. Where does that align with Scripture when we see God referred to as “Father and Son” obvious male names.

    3) How can you then believe that Jesus is a woman, such as your picture above with Jesus on the cross with female parts. We clearly know through Scripture and through historical records that Jesus was in fact a male.

    Thank you for your answers using Scripture as support. I am trying to gain a better understanding of the Word, yet am desperately confused after reading your blog. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. OK, well, whoever you are, I do like the title of your comment, ‘cuz I find myself confused quite often! I’ll try my best to respond to your questions above:

    1) I do agree with a lot of your explanation of the way God needs us, yet doesn’t need us. This is one of the many back & forth dilemmas & paradoxes found throughout Christian scripture, tradition, and most religious scriptures & traditions for that matter- trying to resolve how we have a responsibility to live the way (g)Go(0)d(s) wants us to live, and trying to acknowledge at the same time that we don’t ultimately determine everything by what we do. That this is determined by something, or someone, else. Your explanation above is just a good as most others I’ve read & heard trying to resolve this.

    2) God is pictured in masculine, feminine, and neutral terms, metaphors, and analogies, personal and impersonal, throughout Christian scripture and tradition. The more prominent feminine images in the Bible for my own spiritual Journey are:
    -the name for God El Shaddai, which translates best as “The Breasted One”, as the Hebrew word “shad” means “breast” (Genesis 17:1).
    -Isaiah’s declaration from God to Jerusalem “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13), which then is kinda matched by Jesus’ declaration to Jerusalem “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” (Luke 13:34)
    -the Wisdom of God (a feminine term, in Hebrew “Hokmah”, in Greek “Sophia”) personified as a woman, especially in Wisdom 7 & 8, Proverbs 8 & 9, and in Jesus’ declaration “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (or “children”, depending on which Greek manuscripts you think are more authortative here) (Matthew 11:19).

    So while there are many more masculine images, analogies, and metaphors for God throughout Christian scripture, there are also feminine ones.

    3) This is why I like to use the Christa sculpture that you mention above. Yes, clearly, Jesus is a man, I certainly don’t believe he’s a woman. But the way Jesus has been portrayed and depicted throughout Christian history, in pictures and words, is just as varied, diverse, and different as the centuries, cultures, and contexts Christianity finds itself in. I don’t think there’s any reason to confine images of Jesus to any criteria that you, or I, or anyone might deem appropriate, as that would exclude a lot of very authentic and Truth-full portrayals.

    Jesus was also Jewish- does that mean we can’t picture him with blond hair & blue eyes, or East Asian, or Polynesian? Some of the earliest artistic renderings of Jesus paint him as a proper Roman citizen, decked out in a toga, with short curly hair, and no beard. Does that mean we always have to paint & draw him clean shaven? I don’t see any reason that someone can’t picture Jesus as a woman. As a Christian, I believe Jesus to be the universal human being, embodying the entire human experience in his life. I see no reason why one can’t embody the 51% of humanity that’s existed on the planet along with males like me in one’s artistic expression of Jesus.

    I hope my responses help. If you want, I’d Love to talk further with you, about these things and anything else. You’re welcome to join us this Saturday (see the latest post at this website), and/or you can find my contact info. at the website’s About page. Come to the encounter however you’d like. Take care, my friend!

    Pax,

    -Pastor -D

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>