A reflection on the Gospel of Luke for Advent 4C, wherein Mary pregnant with child goes to be with her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant with child in her old age. Mary sings the Magnificat: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord..."
Goodness. Here we are, Advent Four, already. Typical for this time of year the season of Advent has flown by! Such is the nature of life.
Jan Richardson an artist, author, minister and retreat leader, is offering an on-line Advent Retreat called The Illuminated Advent, and she said this recently:
“I gave up striving for balance a long time ago. But I do need an underlying rhythm to my days, some beats that help restore me and return me to my life.”[i]
I can completely relate to this – the idea that balance is not the goal, rather the goal is listening too and adapting to the rhythm of one’s life.
Etty Hillesum, protected people during the Nazi invasion of Holland, kept a dairy of her life. She paid attention to the beating of her own heart in the midst of the horrors around her. She wrote: "Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes." [ii].
Having a sacred rhythm to our days, a way of moving in the world that aligns us with the heartbeat of God, enables our lives to take on new meaning and purpose.[iii]
But this Advent season has also been marked by tragedy and sorrow. Perhaps you, like me, feel a bit more vulnerable. Following the tragedy of nine days ago, learning to live within the heart-beat of God seems more elusive and more crucial than ever.
I invite you to take a moment, just to breathe…. Close your eyes, if you wish. Take a snow-flake, gift tag, or star from the basket write on it. Write something that you are grateful for – a person, an event, anything that has brought you moment of gratitude. Then we will hang them on the Christmas tree – during the peace or after communion or after the service. Leave them on the table under the tree and we’ll hang them higher up once we bring out the ladder to finish greening the church.
And then, when you are finished, 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 into the world in human flesh, the incarnation. God comes in human hands and hearts to heal, to love, 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, the rhythm of God resounding in the beating of our hearts, God’s presence in our words, and in our actions. May this be a tender time.