Out of the Emptiness, Life will Come

Advent Reflection, Friday, December 18

By: David H. May, Rector

Sometimes when I am in the great empty space in New St. Mary’s, it seems like it will always be like this. Empty. Thoughts like that, I think, are the work of nine long months of shutdowns and physical distancing and all the rest. I remember how we gathered here Sunday after Sunday; I do. But sometimes, if I’m honest, just barely.

But something is changing. For myself, I’ve decided that it’s time to look forward and stop trying to remember what was. And, of course, it’s taken grace to do that. Unearned and unmerited, two things have happened. Here is the first one. Earlier this week I saw a picture that is staying so clearly in my mind. It’s a picture taken outside the Pfizer plant in Michigan that is manufacturing the first-approved COVID-19 vaccine. In the picture is a great, huge tractor trailer full of the first shipment of the vaccine leaving the plant. And there along the road, people are lined up clapping and cheering them on. You can tell that those dear, dear people are all filled up! Oh thank you God! It makes me so glad that we’ve begun immunizing health care workers and vulnerable residents and staff in continuing care residences. This is so encouraging for all of us. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

There is. And we just have to get there. From where we are right now, I think the special goodness and joy of Christmas coming will carry us through until the new year. I am so excited for what we have planned here at St. Mary’s for Christmas!

And then will come January and February. These are long, dark months every year, but I am afraid they may feel especially so this year. My sense is that making it through January and February are going to be a big part of coming near to the light at the end of the tunnel. So, for those two months, I am hoping for an outbreak of compassion where people are especially mindful of giving others plenty of grace, and I hope people will be sure to save a little grace for themselves too. We are going to get there.

So, it is time to look forward with renewed hope and – for me at least – to stop trying to look back at what was.

And here is the second gift of grace that has set me on a new path. A few weeks ago, just before Advent, I recorded my sermon in empty New St. Mary’s. A dear, dear old friend of mine, a retired Episcopal priest in South Carolina, watched the service and emailed me later in the week. Here is what he wrote:

“It was good being with you in your space. As we approach Advent, as your church is empty, so was the womb of Mary. When she said yes it changed her life, filling her with Jesus and the Spirit. Unsure of the future, but blessed. Lives were and will be changed out of that emptiness.”

It is time to look forward; to celebrate Christmas with joy; to give and receive grace through the winter months. And to say ‘yes’, like Mary, that out of this emptiness, new life will come.