I find that the season of Advent has flown by – from that first Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Sunday’s following when we celebrated the Rite 13 service and welcomed two young men into adulthood, and last Sunday with the flurry of celebration and activity that always accompanies a Bishop’s visit. Parish life has been full of celebration. It has also been a time of healing and tending to those who are ill. As it happens in life we have had a number of critically ill people this month, thankfully most of them are on the mend. We have E.P., who died yesterday after a long battle with leukemia and Alzheimer’s. All this busy-ness seems inevitable in Advent, a season in which we are called, paradoxically, to be still, to be quiet, to reflect on the various ways we come to know Christ in our lives.
Unexpectedly, I found myself, last night, sitting in silence. No television. No radio. No music playing. Sitting in the living room with the Christmas tree lights on, the gentle sound of the flames lapping in the fireplace, my dogs shifting on the area rug, the cat purring at my side. It was delightful to just sit and be still.
Where are you, at this point in the Advent season? Have you had more silence and solitude than you care for? Or are you, like me, overflowing with activity, yearning for a quiet moment to catch your breath? Take a moment, just to breathe…. Close your eyes, if you wish. Or pull out the piece of paper in the center of your bulletin and doodle, or write a note of gratitude on the abundance card in the pew rack. Just be still. After a moment of silence, I am going to share a short reflection by Caryll Houselander.
“When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense. It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of the self like a little tent around the child’s frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day to bring forth, the life. A closing upon it like the petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in its heart. This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.
By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. Today Christ is dependent upon us.
This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to where he wants to go, and there are many places to which he may never go unless we take him to them.” (The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander)
Houselander, known as a Christian mystic, was born in the early 1900’s and became a prolific writer and artist. Most of her writing speaks of Christ within each of us –ordinary, broken, imperfect, challenged, human beings.
The season of Advent is a time to ponder how it is that Christ is in and within us. Our reading this morning from Luke reminds us that God made a home in the body of Mary. Her willingness to birth God into the world brought forth the means by which God comes to heal us, to love us, to be present in and through our lives. Houselander reminds us that just as God resided in Mary, so God chooses to reside in us, that we can be the means through which God’s love continues to be poured into the world. Let us be attentive to God’s love in our breath, in our words, and in our actions.
May it be a tender time.