Advent 2017: A letter to the community
November 19, 2017
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
We are planning for the biggest day of our calendar, Christmas, and yet we live in a holding pattern; something I like to call the great silence of Advent. In monastic settings, where the term originates, the great silence begins after compline every night and ends with Eucharist the next morning. The application of such intense periods of silence is designed to quiet our minds and bodies in order to hear God more fully. When the world is asleep, the sky illuminated with stars, there is a peace that transports us back to the stable in Bethlehem and the night in which Christ was born, a night of great silence and chaos.
In the passage that opens our letter, Mary is in the midst of receiving yet more guests in the short time since she has given birth. Like our own births, this was no ordinary and orderly experience. Mary had to travel, seek shelter, and give birth on a stable floor. Our mom’s can tell us the pain and confusion of childbirth which, when we appreciate medical science today, means Mary was probably loosing her mind in the midst of all the pain and chaos of birth. Now as a new mother, of what is clearly an important child, she is receiving guests and holy visitors! Suddenly the tranquil setting of the stable in Bethlehem transforms into a closer image of our own chaotic Christmas’.
Christmas begins a journey, rather than being a destination, and for us it lasts twelve days ending on Epiphany when the Magi came to Jesus with royal gifts. That journey starts in the great silence that Mary holds within her heart as she is enveloped in all of this chaos weaving around her. Mary’s pondering calls us anew this advent into a period of expectant waiting, questioning, interest, excitement, wondering, and prayer. In her great silence, she holds forth a transcendent night for us as a promise of what is to come in a king born to us in a stable, whose life will transform our own dark nights into mornings of great joy. However like Mary, we must choose to enter into the great silence in the midst of all this merry making and consumerism. Like Mary we are called this advent to ponder all these things in our hearts, for it is in our hearts that we meet Christ directly.
As our malls blare Christmas music, party’s ramp up, the bubbles flow freely, and our to-do lists get longer and longer, I invite you to lean into the moment with all the excitement of Mary at the Crib of Christ. Lean into the excitement and be fully present to what it is you are doing. Being fully present suggests that you are totally in the moment and ready to experience what it is you’re doing. Being fully present can take us into our memories as we look at a beautiful Christmas decoration that transports us back to our childhood. Maybe it is that piece of music playing, the flicker of a candle in the snow, or the smile of a child who sees Santa for the first time. Allowing ourselves to be fully present, and aware to the details of a busy season, opens us up like Mary to be surprised by grace, a gift which permeate everything we do.
In the midst of Mary’s chaos, she called all things into the great silence of her heart, a heart we are invited into this Christmas. In Mary, we find the humanity which connects us with Jesus and gives us a way to pray and be present in this Advent season. I invite you to pray with me like Mary this Christmas, by being fully present to the season in the following ways:
Prayer: Pray at the start of your day for the things you will do and people you will meet. Become aware of their faces, hold them in your minds eye, and thank God for them. Pray at the end of your day by looking back at everyone you’ve met, things you’ve done, and ask Jesus to come into each of those moments. This is a form of Ignatian spirituality (monastic) called the “Examen.” In this spiritual practice, you weave the texture of your day in the great silence of Mary listening reflectively and with presence to where God is moving you in your world. Pray with me.
Choose to be present: come out to a life group, our Christmas Fair (Dec 2, 10-2), Neighbourhood Ministry Christmas Blitz (Dec 16)
Worship: Families Christmas Pageant (Dec 17, 10:30 am); Advent 4 (Dec 24, 10:30 am); Christmas Eve (Dec 24- Festive music at 8:30; Eucharist of the Nativity 9pm) Christmas Day (Dec 25, 10:30 am).
Give: Consider an online donation given in reflective thanksgiving from the gifts God has given you to the ministry of this parish. With your generous donation we continue to reach hundreds of people a month, forming disciples in Christ’s name.
Mary calls to us from the manger this season to hold all these things in our hearts. I continue to hold you all in my heart in prayer, as we move ever closer to that sacred and chaotic manger in Bethlehem.