Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 22, 2019
By: Elizabeth Starling
Our Gospel reading this morning tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective; but, this year, I can’t help but see it from the perspective of Mary. This Christmas is a little different for me. My husband and I are expecting our first child and being pregnant over the holiday has given me a newfound respect for young Mary. At 13 or 14 years old, Mary is engaged to an older man she barely knows, and on top of that, finds out that she’s pregnant with Jesus—Emmanuel—“God with us.” What?! I can’t even imagine her reaction.
My wonderful coworkers probably won’t tell you this, but I have not been the most graceful expectant mother. I’m 27 weeks along now, and this week I, without any remorse whatsoever, stole a foot massager from another coworker during our staff Christmas “white elephant” game. I think I said something like, “Sorry but not really because my feet hurt ALL THE TIME,” and then swiped it from him. If my feet or back hurt, they hear about it; if I’m hungry, they know; if my daughter is kicking me, I’m likely making weird faces; and to say my temper is short is an understatement. Pregnancy is beautiful and exciting, but also really tough, and I haven’t been the best at hiding that.
So, when I think of Mary, I just want to give her a hug. By the time she and Joseph set out for Bethlehem, she’s nearing the end of her pregnancy. She has gained 35 or more pounds, her feet hurt, her back aches, and she is riding a donkey. A DONKEY. The last time I rode a donkey, I was five years old, and was excited about the “pony ride” at a carnival. For some reason I still don’t understand, I ended up on a donkey instead of a pony, and it tried to kick me off its back just so that it could stop and eat some grass. You could not pay me to get on a donkey again, especially at 40 weeks pregnant. No thank you.
Yet we don’t read about Mary complaining. We hear only about a humble young woman tasked with something that probably felt impossible—bearing a son, in an unfamiliar place, as a young teen, with a new husband, who just happens not to be the baby’s actual father. There were probably tears and anxiety that we don’t read much about, but despite that, Mary’s faith carries her through. Her trust that God is in control is something that I struggle with daily, and I can only hope to be just a little more like Mary in the months and years to come.
Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 15, 2019
By: Bob Hetherington
We have arrived at the Third Sunday of Advent. Advent is a separate season, not just the build up for Christmas. Keeping Advent is what makes the Church’s approach to Christmas very different from how the larger culture approaches Christmas. In the shopping malls, the Christmas music began long before Thanksgiving.
Advent is a challenge for each of us because we live in multiple worlds. There is so much to do this time of year – shopping, partying, organizing, and traveling. It is so easy to be distracted and lose sight of things that matter. We try so hard to get Christmas right. It is also true that the more the season is hyped, the more many people feel out of sync with the Christmas build up.
One of the sharpest contrasts between “Church Christmas” and “World Christmas” is John the Baptist. (You will never find a mall display highlighting John the Baptist this time of year.)
What can we say about John the Baptist?
• He was connected to Jesus. He was a cousin. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
• He was from the wilderness – an outsider.
• He had a stern message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
• He pointed beyond himself in a spirit of deep humility: “There is one coming after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
The challenge this season is to prepare a place in our hearts for John the Baptist. It begins by creating quiet space in the hustle and bustle of the season.
• Who are God’s messengers who come to us from the margins of life?
• In repenting our sins, what do we turn away from? What do we turn toward?
• How can we be instruments of God’s love and blessing?
John the Baptist was an instrument for God. He looked beyond himself to the One who was to come. In this holy season, how can we be instruments to bring peace and blessing to others?