Soul Café December 19, 2012
©Rev. Cynthia Langston Kirk
Our greetings during this time of year often miss the mark.
How many times a day to we utter or receive a Merry Christmas greeting, perhaps accompanied with a hug and kiss?
But, as pastors, some of us want to encourage the fact that it is Advent. Wait. Prepare. The trees are up, decorated and lit, but the journey is in progress.
Then we hear the rebuttal. But the carols are playing on the radio and often in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. The Nativity sets on tables and in yards and they include baby Jesus and often the wise people.
But it is really the season of expectancy and preparation. Advent is a time of pregnancy with all the elation and struggles that brings.
Sometimes our greetings miss the mark – Merry Christmas we say and the person responds or wants to respond What’s so merry about it?
Many people experience this time of year with dread and gloom and the bright lights and peppy songs only exacerbate their depressed feelings. Many people, perhaps all people this year, are filled with grief. The songs and bells do little to assuage their feelings.
Worship helps. Many churches have Longest Night services that give voice to overwhelming sadness or loneliness. Perhaps your congregation will offer such a time of worship on the 21st. Or you have advertised which nearby congregation does.
As hard as it seems, this is the Season of overcoming perceived odds, of hoping in the face of seemingly lost causes.
Some of you may have watched the UA- Nevada football game last Sat. or seen a replay or two. Here’s how the last 1:51 went.
1:51 left – Nevada scored a field goal putting them up 2 touchdowns – some in the crowd may have gathered their belongings to leave. It was the picture of hopeless causes.
1:38 – series of passes toward receiver on near sideline so he could catch the ball and step out of bounds, stopping the clock because AZ had no time outs left.
:43 – AZ scored
:42 – AZ made their extra point
:40 onsides kick, fumble and AZ recovered the ball
:37 pass to 55 yd line
:22 – pass to 8 yd line
:20 – TD
:19 – extra point making it 49 – 48 in favor of AZ
:15 – AZ intercepted Nevada’s first pass
:13 – Coach Rodriquez spoke to Matt Scott, could only see Scott’s face, but the coach must have said something like, Just catch the ball and take a knee. Scott smiled knowing what he needed to do.
They had prepared to this game
For fully participating in an often grueling situation
To communicate and know what to do even with no time outs left
To be heads up in order to intercept a pass or recover a fumble
To be poised in the face of what seemed hopeless
As fun and exhilarating as it is, remember it is just a football game and what happened in the last two minutes cannot measure against what God can do in bleak situations.
Oh, we all need to hear and read that this week.
And so I wish you a Mary Advent – M-A-R-Y
Real, nauseating, full of wonder, full of fear
Real, raw, laid bare, grueling, the unsanitized version
A journey that is paved with hope not wishful thinking
Marrow deep hope that has been experienced and witnessed for generation
Not magical thinking, finger-crossed, eager for Santa-down-the-chimney approach
It is the hope that Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Hannah, Simeon lived waiting for Incarnational Love.
And it was Mary’s yes that moved beyond willingness to participate to her naming needs and ways of being in service. This week we remember Mary, the singer, whose Magnificat was a call to justice.
As Joan Chittister wrote “the definition of justice I most often use is this: justice is love expressed in terms of sheer human need: food, water, clothes, shelter, medicine and health care, education, human rights and freedom, hope for a future for one’s children, freedom from fear and violence, the dignity of work, and participation in society and history. “
Eastern church’s name for Mary Theotokos “the God – bearer. And that is the crux of the matter: we are all called to be God-bearers, to say yes to Emmanuel, the Incarnate One, to give birth to peace and justice throughout the world.
When we are confronted with such a possibility our body language and questions may be the same as Corrine Peters’ Annunciation Mary simultaneously the quizzical look and pointing to self with one hand “me?” “how can this be?”and, with the other hand, touching our bellies in deep reverence for new life and new possibilities already begun.
Years ago I read a story of a man and his wife taking their grown daughter to the airport to see her off to the Peace Corps. They all knew the potential dangers of disease and political unheaval, but still she had insisted that this was her path. He said, “Waiting in that airport, it became crystal clear to me that all her life I raised her to be a good Christian and the call she was answering was to be a real Christian.”
Do you think that is how Mary’s mother must have felt? I raised her to be a good Jew and she wants to be a real Jew who follows God in spite of assaults on her reputation, even if the path is unmarked and unsettling, even if the way is dirty and demanding. She wants to give birth to the Holy and teach us how to do likewise. And she can remind us that, through it all, God goes with each of us.
Thanks be to God. Amen.