Expecting Something That Matters by Sarah Styles Bessey

by Christine Sine
Pillar candle from Advent wreath

Candles for Advent

This morning’s post from Sarah Styles Bessey at Emerging Mummy. It was first posted as In Which I Am Expecting Something for Advent.  It was also posted as a part of the pre-Advent synchroblog but makes a great reflection for us as we move towards the middle of Advent. _______________________________________________________________________________

I’ve already set out my plain white pillar candles in anticipation of this coming Sunday, the start of Advent. They’re perched in a sea of river stones, on a black slate plate, on my kitchen table. We lay our treasures from our daily walks onto these stones; small pine cones, bright red leaves, a sprig from the hemlock. The flotsam and jetsam of magpie-tinies all resting between the unlit wicks, waiting for Jesus to breathe life reborn again. It’s my made-up Advent wreath, a cobbling together of my version of the Church tradition and I think it says something about me but I’m not sure what.

He’s coming soon; so what do I expect?

He’s coming soon, the Christ child. This year, I am eager for the liturgy, eager for the prayers of the saints spoken by so many lips for so many years, for the lighting of the candles. A happy-clappy anti-establishment Jesus follower, am I, and yet these rituals  have become one of the most important parts of my year. The liturgy and holiness, tracing the line of time backwards through saints and sisters, matters to me. It pulls me away from commercialization, from crass misrepresentation. The practice of Advent gives me an exhale, a focus, an active waiting.

There is also the mother-part of me that always lines up with Mary, Mother of God, to wait with her in anticipation. (If there is one thing that mothers come to understand as they grow heavy with life, as they mother small souls in all their storming and resting and growing and learning, it’s waiting.)

And then there is me in the world waiting, aching, yearning, for the restoration of all things, for the beautiful redemption of all pain, all sorrow, all brokenness. Advent is just as much about waiting for what God has yet to do as it is the commemoration of what he has already done. And those lines, the now and not yet, they blur for me most days, a tension.

So do I expect my version of the Messiah? Do I expect a soon-coming King to overthrow an evil empire and set all things to right as I see fit? (Apparently, I am no different than a group of Galileans and Zealots two thousand years ago.) My eye is already kingdom focused, the work of the Church one of making space for God’s way of life and true humanity. Or do I expect Jesus, the Christ? A kingdom that moves not by armies and decrees and laws written in stone but one that moves like yeast, like a seed, written in the hearts and flesh of people like us?

My expectation this year, in my honest self, knee-deep in living, is only this: Make it matter to me.

Jesus, make the fact that you came, the fact that you are still arriving, matter in my life. My life should show the new dawn, my heart, my brain, my soul, the very lines on my face should show how the glory of God is the woman fully alive, truly human. I read a phrase of Eugene Peterson’s once and he called this God-life one of “robust sanity.”

So I’ve got my candles set up. My Bible is open, my Common Prayer beside. My other faithful, oft-underlined companion of AdventAccompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, by Luci Shaw, waits.

I pray my soul will welcome always that small
seed. That I will hail it when it enters me.

I don’t mind being grit, soil, dirt, mud-brown,
laced with the rot of old leaves, if only the seed

can find me, find a home and bear a fruit,
sweet, flushed, full-fleshed – a glory apple.

On my lips, one prayer for these Advent weeks, wherever it may lead: Be it unto me, as You have said. I’m waiting, watching, a midwife of the Kingdom.

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