by Anne Peterson
Advent — the beginning of a new church year — is one of my favorite seasons, and not just because the altar is draped in my second most favorite color, purple. Comprising the four weeks leading to the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve, Advent picks up with Mary toward the end of her pregnancy, and waits with her for the birth of the Christ Child.
I’m not all that good with waiting.
Just a few weeks ago, I arrived at the gate for a return flight home to find it was no longer the one for my flight. After two gate changes, the news was that the plane would arrive two hours late. Having already eaten a great deal of the delicious ice cream in the vicinity, I reluctantly gave up my original plans for dinner at my favorite Pasadena restaurant to eat a semi-satisfactory airport meal while watching the defeat of the team I was following. Eventually, I arrived at home, safe and grumpy.
Waiting for a delayed Southwest flight is quite different from waiting for a baby. Generally speaking, if one is “expecting” a baby, one is excited about it. According to the Biblical story, Mary had been impregnated by the spirit of God — which Joseph was not too thrilled about. Perhaps Mary wasn’t either, as reflected in Botticelli’s dynamic painting with the angel on one knee, inviting — and Mary twisting her body away with both hands palms up, resisting, in a dance pulsing with energy.
I imagine the dialogue: Mary, “No, not me! Please say it isn’t so!” The angel, “God is calling you, Mary. This is a gift!”
The story of the Virgin Birth is in the category of myth — an event which, though not necessarily factually true, carries within it deep truths. The truth is, each of us is called to be a God-bearer in our own way. How is the power of welcoming the spirit of God that touched Mary’s and Joseph’s lives touching your life this year? What new expression of the spirit is unfolding within you?
I invite you to join me this Advent in a daily adventure — Sunday, November 30 through Tuesday, December 23. Find a quiet place, set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and imagine the angel visiting you. What is God calling you to? What energy do you feel, what emotions? What gift is being offered? What is your response? And, if you like, let me know what happens, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 626.583.2713. Bon voyage!