Monday, November 30, 2009

The advent of Advent

Now we're in the season of Advent. Advent means a coming. In the liturgical calendar, it's the season preceding Christmas. We're awaiting Jesus' coming or birth. It's a time of expectant waiting, of anticipation and preparation.

It's a time of affirmation, too. Of saying "Yes!" to God.

Mary did. The first chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells us of Gabriel's visit to Mary. He told her of the child she would bear:

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Some translations use "hover" instead of overshadow.

I picture the Holy Spirit hovering over Mary, as a parent hovers over a child at a crucial moment, tenderly tending to her, preparing her body and strengthening her spirit for what was to come. Then, the divine reaches into Mary, who inmost being is well known, and touches something. There! It begins. This new life on Earth, planned since the beginning, begins.

And we read the parallel in the first chapter of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The Spirit hovered over the deep, preparing it. Then, the Spirit moved. Divine power touched the void. The Earth was formed, the dome of the sky separated from the deep, and life began to bud.

Two beginnings, closely allied, and a God who calls forth new life.

Back to Mary.

I wonder what she thought, as the next months passed. She must have hugged her secret to herself, marveling. Anxiety and excitement must have mixed in near equal portions, though Gabriel told her not to fear.

She was expectantly waiting for a miracle she knew would come. She didn't know just how the future would unfold after she gave birth to the child she was told to name Jesus, but she raced toward it, eagerly.

We now push toward Christmas, eagerly, expecting the miraculous.

Sign of the time

Ah, we are foolish, always seeking signs and wonders, when they're all around us, if we but look.

Look at my Christmas cactus, for example, loaded with buds that are beginning to bloom, heralding the approach of Christmas:

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