Sisters in Scripture
Third Week of Advent
12/14/2019

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
James 5:7-8 

Third 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. 
The Annunciatory Angel
(detail of Fra Angelico's The Annunciation) - Luci Shaw
 
. . .Gabriel seems to be advancing up an incline, laboring with the imperative of message, hair flattened against scalp, features tense, hands folded tight to the chest, agitation or awe - it is hard to tell. We can't see the heart hammering in the unearthly body, but the announcement, the cracking open of a space that encircles earth and heaven, must weigh like a gold boulder in the belly.
 
How might it feel (if an archangel has feelings) to bear this news: Perhaps as confounded as the girl, there in the corner? 
 
We worry that she might faint. Weep. Turn away, perplexed and fearful about opening herself. Refuse to let the wind fill her, t buffet its nine-month seed into her earth. 
She is so small and intact. Turmoil will wrench her.

She might say no.
 
Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation
 
click on the image to view a larger version
She might say no. 
In fact, without the possibility of no, a true yes cannot exist. Mary absolutely had the choice of saying no and all these years and layers of reflection later, we cannot know but only imagine—along with our artists, just what she considered, how she must have felt, and what expression was on her face.

In Genesis 2, God forms humankind out of the clay of the earth and breathes life into that clay. Could not God have chosen, once again, to be become en-fleshed in such a way, by once again taking earth and breathing life into it? Jesus could have arrived on the scene with unknown origins. God, being God, could have acted unilaterally to become human through his own singular volition. 

Yet, God chose otherwise. He chose to so fully enter into human existence as to experience birth and to depend upon the will and cooperation of another. He chose to wait upon Mary. Everything was conditional upon her and her saying "yes.” 
                               "….she might have said no”
 
In waiting upon Mary, God dignifies Mary... 
dignifies her, 
womanhood, 
humanity, 
free will.

God, who has no beginning, chooses to be subjected to the free choices of others, in this case, Mary. This honors the foundational human condition that we do not get to act unilaterally. 

We, too, are subject to the choices made by others. We benefit by the choices made by others. Almost every civil holiday recalls and celebrates that we enjoy our freedom because of the sacrifices of others. We are here because of the choices of others—to conceive, bear, educate and raise us, to plant crops, build roads, hospitals and schools. 

But we also suffer at the choices made by others. On a global scale, we are born into a certain time and place, just like Jesus was, and we inherit all that means. The world has made selfish and calamitous choices throughout history, up to and including our own time. We are capable at any time of turning on the TV and finding our world is suddenly, irrevocably changed. And on a smaller, personal scale, we suffer from the poor choices of those we love--perhaps, the most difficult of all. 

When we suffer the consequences of others' choices, it is an experience that God understands full well. We can take that to prayer confident that God, too, understands, loves the other, and has grace and wisdom to sustain us. 

TO PRAY AND PONDER: For those difficult times when people you love have made choices that worry you, or the circumstances of our larger world worry you, remember that this is the human condition that God has chosen to enter and God, being God, can bring grace to bear in any situation. Pray for that.
 
 click on the image to view a larger version
"Angelus"
Jean Francois Millet, 1827
 
In Millet’s picture, the work in the field is halted by the sound of the bells from the distant monastery and the peasants bow their heads to pray.
Millet wrote of his inspiration, "The idea for the Angelus came to me because I remember that my grandmother, hearing the church bells ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus...”  
 
He captures the details as would one who has himself, been in the scene—the digging potatoes, potato fork, basket, sacks and wheel barrow are all strewn about. Quieted in meditation, their faces lost in shadow, the figures loom large in the foreground of a huge empty plain and monastery, with the light underscoring their prayerful posture. Despite its simple theme and character, the figures and picture its take on an iconic quality.

 
The Angelus is an Annunciation prayer using the words the angel's visit in Luke, a way for the unlearned farmer or shopkeeper to offer memorized prayer alongside those of the monks who answered the bell to pray the psalms. 

TO DO: This Advent create your own "Angelus bell." Set your phone to chime or vibrate at noon or some other time that works for you. Stop. Be still. Remember the good intention you want to bring to the day. Just as Mary was called to participate in God's plan for humanity, so are we invited to say "yes" in our particular time and place, to bring about God's saving plan where we are. In that moment, let the angel approach you reverently, hopefully, "Will you let God's Love be carried within you...


 NEXT WEEK: Mary sings her "yes" to God!
 
Interested in hosting a future Advent Retreat or other event, please contact Kathleen. To learn more about Sisters in Scripture, visit us at Sisters in Scripture. You'll find a recent clip of Kathleen speaking at United Lutheran, Bella Vista, AR on the About Kathleen page. 

Related Articles:
  • First Week of Advent (11/30/2019)
      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 then...is 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?

    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.
     


  • Second Week of Advent (12/7/2019)
    The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
    His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
    Isaiah 11:2-4 

    Second 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

    When Betsey first created her StoryDance for the Annunciation, she had to consider how to best set the scene. She decided to have Mary hanging laundry. This gave her an array of colorful scarves to dance with (clever!) and created an indelible visual impact. It was Betsey's StoryDance that first inspired me and begged the question, "What was Mary doing when Gabriel appeared?" (To see more of Betsey's movement artistry, go to The Dancing Word.)
     
    On our Advent retreat, we again ask the question of participants, "What do you think Mary was doing?" We then take a look at art through the ages to see how others have answered the question. Every artist, like Betsey, has had to think not only of Mary's setting but also some thought provoking questions like how to make the Divine visible, how does one respond when that happens, how is this relevant today?
     


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