December 16, 2017

Advent 2017

"Yes!"

The whole creation is eagerly waiting for the full revelation of the children of God....From the beginning until now, the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth. (Romans 8:19-22)

It seems to me that from the Big Bang birth of the universe to the emergence of Adam and Eve and all this wonderful species, and even in the birth of civilization and religion and art and everything in between, God passes to us a legacy in which we experience newness, change, and renewal as a condition of living. It's as if God spins new possibilities into creation every day. Even the scriptures, like a holy piƱata, burst with new meanings at every encounter with a human soul. All the little births of the universe are part of that great movement of birth-giving in time and space. And here we are in the midst (or on the edge), rising each morning like a mirror to the sun shooting up over the rim of the world. What new possibilities, what changes, good and bad, await us each day with the rising sun? 

The story of Mary and Joseph is a little story of constant change pregnant with meaning: rendezvous with late night angels, cryptic messages, surprise pregnancies, the stirring of political angst, the murder of innocents, and a flight to a new culture in the land of the distant Egyptians. Jesus' birth and all the changes that it wrought in the lives of Mary and Joseph may just be our best lesson in the nature of God. It's fairly easy to smile and feel overwhelming hope and enthusiasm at the birth of a child - any child, circumstances of poverty and want notwithstanding. But what would Mary's outlook be were Jesus born today? Born into a world divided, nations on the brink of war, famine, a plundered and ruined creation, corrupted and valueless leaders. How would she give birth to and pass along any hope to the baby Jesus today? It's hard to say, but probably she'd do it in the same way she did 2000 years ago: from a point of humility. Mary's Magnificat response to the angel's news of the coming birth sings of God's participation in all things. Her vision is a world saturated with God's presence in all its beauty and pain, delight and suffering. She manages change not by setting her hope on a bright and shiny future but by naming the source at the core of all that is. Hers is a resounding "Yes!" in the face of the impossible.

-- Jonathan Bailey

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