by Christine Sine
We are halfway through traditional Advent and I am realizing that leaning towards the light, this year in particular, is a very deliberate choice. It is one that doesn’t seem to come naturally to me either, especially now that the Seattle days are dark and gloomy. My morning ritual in which I light all the candles around my sacred space and then in my Advent garden has become even more meaningful for me.
“No one lights a lamp only to place it under a basket or under the bed. It is meant to be placed on a lamp stand” (Mark 4:21 TPT)
I love imagining the players in this story as real people with the same kinds of struggles as we have. I love seeing the light they bring not just to the story but to my life as well. This year has uncovered some unexpected lights in the Advent story for me.
First, there is Elizabeth whom I am convinced was the one that Mary fled to for comfort and protection when her family and her community rejected and maybe even abused her. She, too, knew what it meant to be looked down on. Firstly because she was childless, and also because she was pregnant in her old age. She, too, could so easily have turned her back on Mary and said “I have enough problems of my own”.
I think Mary must have been there for John’s birth too, maybe just before she headed home to face her family. She must have heard that wonderful prophesy given by his father, Zechariah, another light in the Advent story that we tend to keep under a basket. I wonder if when Zechariah foretold the role that John would play in her own baby’s life, it was like a dazzling light for Mary, an affirmation of how important her baby was. Maybe it gave her the strength and the confidence to go home and face her family and her fiancé.
Who provided the lights that comforted and protected you during 2020? For whom have you provided light? Are there others for whom you could still provide light and comfort?
In past years, I have spoken of other lights I have uncovered in the Advent story. A couple of years ago, I pondered Is Joseph the Unsung Hero in the Advent Story. He, too, is a bright light that we often ignore. As I say in that previous post: I love the way that Kenneth Bailey talks about Joseph in his wonderful book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.
In his cameo appearance, Matthew presents Joseph as a human being of remarkable spiritual stature. He possessed the boldness, daring, courage and strength of character to stand up against his entire community and take Mary as his wife. He did so in spite of the forces that no doubt wanted her stoned. His vision of justice stayed his hand. In short he was able to reprocess his anger into grace. (46)
That Joseph’s extraordinary love protected and surrounded Mary and eventually Jesus continues to be seen as the story unfolds. The trip to Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, his teaching of Jesus to be a carpenter are all indications of his love and care.
Who has provided the light of love you have needed to sustain you over this challenging year? For whom have you been a light of love and provision? Are there others that you could reach out to this Christmas with love and provision?
The third unexpected light are Joseph’s family. According to Kenneth Bailey, Jesus was not born in a stable but in the family home. I talk about this in my previous post: Was Jesus Really Born In A Stable and Why Does it Matter? I think that Joseph’s family must have been as extraordinary as he was – not just welcoming Mary and Jesus, whose story they must have known before she arrived, but also welcoming shepherds, the despised of the community, and wise men, foreigners, into their home.
Over the last year, one of the sustaining structures for us has been our small intentional community that has been like family to us, and our next door neighbours who have shopped for us every week. So much welcome where we did not expect it.
So who unexpectedly has provided community and family for you during this time? For whom have you been able to be family?
The Advent story is about the joy of God, the light of God, entering human history. We just need to make sure that we don’t keep that light under a basket.
My meditations on all of this resulted in the following prayer/poem which I recite each morning as I light my candles. It is very uplifting and nourishing for me.
I lean towards the light.
Light of life,
light of love,
light of Christ.
I drink in the wonder of it’s enduring presence.
I inhale the glory of its pervading fragrance.
I feast on the beauty of its everlasting radiance.
Light of Christ,
Light of the world,
light of all lights.
May this light fill me, transform me, shine from me
For all the world to see.