Sisters in Scripture
First Week of Advent

  He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 
Isaiah 2:4

First Week of Advent

Over the last several Advents, Betsey Beckman and I have collaborated in presenting the Advent retreat ONCE UPON A TIME IN A TOWN CALLED NAZARETH. While I cannot possibly re-create that experience for you here in newsletter format, here is a sampling sent to you as a labor of love. May it bless your preparation for the coming of Christ. 

 Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth

"Once Upon a Time. . ."

Don't the best of stories begin that way? If ever there was a "Best Of" story, this is it. 

And it really happened. It happened at a particular time, in a particular place, and started with a particular person. 

Let us begin at a time before awareness. In our creative imaginations, we are going to a specific time: 12 hours, BC, the night before the Angel Gabriel will appear.

The one the angel will come to is Mary, Miriam in Hebrew, a young Jewish teenager in first century Palestine, in a town of Galilee called Nazareth.

This was the world, the people, the home into which will come God's great hope for humanity.

Is it fair to say, "What were you thinking, God?" For these were desperate and dangerous times. Israel was an impoverished, occupied nation and the Jews were a rebellious people,
deeply divided along political, religious, and economic lines. 

This was no time for a child to be born--let alone this child, the one upon so much depends. But any time a good time...? 

An Advent Holy Question: Love still takes the risk. . .

What risk is God's love inviting in you this Advent? Inopportune time or God's time?

As an observant Jew, Miriam would have prayed the prayers of her people. We cannot know exactly how Shabbot was prayed in her time, but no doubt, she prayed it.

On our retreat, we imagine and join Mary in prayer. The Jewish people believe the Sabbath is God's gift to all creation and encourage all people in this prayer.


  Some pictures of our Shabbot prayer on the Friday night of



Madeleine L'Engle
Christmas 1973 

This is no time for a child    to be born
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet* slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late

That was no time for a child to be born
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor and truth were trampled by scorn--
Yet here did the Savior make his home.

When is the time for a child to be born?
The inn is full on planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn--
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

* Hale-Bopp Comet


 "Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam"
Blessed are you Lord our God, ruler of the universe.

After the Shabbot prayer and meal, under the moon and spray of stars, we imagine a youthful Mary, betrothed of Joseph, lying upon her pillow. 

Something’s coming! Do we remember those restless days of our youth when we just knew the future held something unspeakably great? When we were the age of Mary? Night time came but we were unable to sleep and looked up at the stars, their brilliance a sign of some shimmering promise we felt, we hoped, but we did not yet know. 
Was Mary restless as well that night, this last night of B.C.? Were there stirrings in the silence that tingled her flesh? Did the sound of breath and heartbeat fill her ears? Fill the room? How long might she have lain awake in exquisite anticipation before sweet sleep at last carried her into dream? This last night of B.C. This last night that her heart beat alone within her breast—before another heart began to beat beneath her own. 

Sometimes the days pile up in their seeming sameness but we become aware slowly that these are also times of ripeness and rightness. A time comes when we know we’ve outgrown what was like a dress two sizes too small. We, too, have known that change is knocking on our door and sometimes when we are open enough, still enough, desirous enough, we have known who it is that knocks. We have known that what comes is of God and it is holy.
As Mary lit the Shabbat candles the evening before Gabriel appeared, what youthful hopes fluttered within her young girl's heart? Dreams of a future, wishes for her people, recollections of her past?
As  you light the first Advent candle, what hopes do you carry in the stillness of your heart? What dreams do you dare? For whom do you pray? What dreams does God harbor for you?

A LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK: The Annunciation in Art: What art and artists have to show us of God's presence and our response.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What do you think Mary was doing with the Angel Gabriel appeared? More next week!

 Interested in hosting a future Advent Retreat or other event? Please contact Kathleen.

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