Unexpected Symbols of Advent

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

It is easy for us to grab hold of the traditional symbols of Advent that encourage us to settle in and be comfortable rather than preparing us for unexpected changes. And I must confess I do love having some of those around. Celebrating the first Sunday of Advent at church on Sunday with the lighting of the first Advent candles on the wreath was one of the highlights of my week.

However I love to look for the unexpected symbols that unsettle me and keep me ready for the kinds of change that I think Advent challenges us to. I am still working on my Advent garden, hoping that it will provide some of these symbols, but in the meantime I need other untraditional and unexpected images of Mary to move me into the right frame of mind at this season.

The image above, an abbey altar piece know as The Visit of the Angels and painted between 1390 and 1400 is of Mary knitting. It is unsettling because she is doing something mundane and everyday when the angels come to her. Reflecting on this image makes us realize Mary is not some extraordinary woman called by God because she has strange super powers but an ordinary teenage girl living on the margins of the empire – vulnerable, and probably as uncertain as any teenager today.

This is a beautiful image to reflect on as we think about the unexpectedness of the Advent story. What catches your attention? What unsettles you? In what ways does it help prepare you for the unexpected ways that Jesus will be birthed in your heart and your life this Christmas?

Over the last few years I hav been attracted to several other unexpected images – the sculpture of Mary, with a loving Jesus behind her that I discovered and wrote about in my post Is Joseph the Unsung Hero of the Advent Story

Kenneth Bailey’s suggestion that Jesus was born in a family home and not in a stable. This is one idea that really unsettled me several years ago. I wrote about it in my post Was Jesus Really Born in a Stable and Why Does it Matter. 

These images have all helped me to ready myself for the unexpected ways that Jesus comes to us at this season. What helps you get ready?

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