Year A, Advent 3
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.
This is not only one of my favorite Advent poems, but an all around favorite poem! Madeleine L’Engle, rest her soul, has long been one of my spiritual mentors through her novels, non-fiction and poems. If you do not know her work I strongly recommend it. Her writings reflect an inspired blend of head and heart, strong in respect for intellect and strong in reverence for mystery.
Advent: the irrational season, a time for the topsy-tervy, a time when deserts bloom, virgins are with child and God comes to upset the worldly status quo of “power over” by empowering the most unlikely folks. Advent is a time embracing opposites, embracing the celebration of God’s “now” and the hopeful anticipation of God’s “not yet.” Perhaps this is part of what Madeleine L’Engle meant when she writes, “Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.” In the story of Luke 1 Mary accepts fully the mystery of God’s presence in her life without having to have all the facts. She celebrates the process of God’s presence as she literally embodies it. It turns her life and her worldview upside down and inside out. Advent is a time for transforming, seemingly paradoxical, process.
In the midst of it all God is present. In the “now” and the “not yet.” Happy are those whose help is already the God of Jacob for God comes to “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees,” to “say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.’” Our souls can already magnify God for God is doing and will do great things! The letter of James brings an exhortation for patience…not despairing waiting….but the patience of a farmer who knows how to wait, trusting that the seeds are at work, unseen under the soil. And Jesus answers John’s questions saying, “the blind do see, the lame do walk, the deaf do hear, the dead are raised and the poor hear good news!”
We have much to look toward in the unfolding realm of God but our looking ahead and anticipation of the future must not give us cause to ignore the work of God unfolding before us. And this work is not always within the realm of “reason” or the way things usually go or have always gone. This work is unexpected. It comes in surprising ways and at unexpected times and with amazing abundance. God leads us in new ways, on the highway called the Holy Way. So we must be alert and awake and ready to receive as our texts from last week admonished. For God “has shown strength … has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;…. has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Like the patience farmer are we willing to trust God’s work already in progress?
The stories I have gathered for this week follow the themes of “blooming in the desert,” “transformation,” “patience in waiting” and “abundance”. God comes to us through each of these themes in our texts this week.
Blooming in the Desert – “Norte Grande” is the Chilean story of desierto florido, the actual blooming in the desert that occurs in Chile. You can learn more about this phenomenon in Chile here. And see how desert blooming plays out in the US at this link.
Patience – My favorite story of patience is found in Japanese, Korean and African folklore. The story is titled, “The Lion’s (or Tiger’s or Sun Bear’s) Whisker”, depending on the part of the world the story is told. Another story, “Patience Pays”, tells of a man rewarded by the king for his patience. It is short and humorous.
Food for the Hungry – The very familiar folktale, “Stone Soup”, is an excellent story of abundance. Click either link to find a version of it. “Bread for Two Beggars” is a new story for me. It is from Afghanistan and I found it delightful.
Blessings as you continue your Advent story journey,
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2016 and beyond. Commentary and photos may be reprinted with permission only. Please tell the stories!