Sunday, December 11, 2016

Premembering




Last week we met with Zechariah, who, in his forced silence, held on behalf of the whole world, reverence, awe and honor for this thing that was unfolding.
This week we are hanging out with Elizabeth.

At the moment Mary was meeting with the angel, hearing this thing that she would be part of, Elizabeth was at home, pregnant, already five months into this thing, perhaps having a quiet cup of tea and knitting some tiny outfit, with silent Zechariah by her side. 

Five months of hiding quietly at home. God has taken away my disgrace! she’d said, but it’s not clear exactly what it’s been replaced with. How in the world would she explain this to the neighbors? Walk her pregnant self into the shops? Send the silent Zechariah instead, raises fewer questions. It’s simpler to stay home and share the quiet wonder of all of this with the one other person on the planet who can understand it – to the extent that anyone can understand such a thing –  her mute husband.

When Mary asks the angel ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’
The angel answers, “God will do this! Even now your super old relative is pregnant! See! Nothing is impossible with God!” Perhaps what Mary heard, what she'd needed to hear, was, Elizabeth is in this too, Mary. Someone else knows what you are going through; someone else will understand. Say Yes and you wont be in it alone.
Mary answers Yes. Here am I. Let it be. And then immediately sets out for Elizabeth, a week’s journey away.  While Elizabeth and Zechariah hunker down at home and wait, Mary's first move is to go to those who understand, to share this astonishing reality with others.

This is the week of Advent dedicated to joy.  Last week we said “peace” means wholeness and fullness – life as God meant for it to be. Joy is when the deep wholeness, that absolute connection to God and each other, is felt with a jolt.  A sudden recognizing life as it was meant to be.  It causes laughter and euphoria, deep contentment, pleasure and delight. Joy happens when our whole being, body and soul, directly responds, Yes! Oh my God, Yes! Anne Lamott “Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet.” 
Joy is a deep, delicious, knowing, in the core of you, what we’ve called “pre-membering,” which is tasting for a moment the future that is to come as though it is here in its fullness already.

We are talking a lot this Advent about how God comes – in outrageous impossibility, with the unexpected and unsuspecting people taking center stage.  And here that comes again - no human knowledge or insight directs this next scene.  No words are needed to bring the unborn prophet, his startled mother, his mute father, and the young mother to be of God-with-us together.  Joy alone is the language, when the Fetus John, already inhabiting his prophetic role of recognizing and pointing to the Messiah, flails and kicks inside Elizabeth at the approach of the Embryonic Jesus inside of Mary.  Joy! Oh my God, YES! It is real; it is coming! God is here! Aaah!

And joy is nothing if not contagious. 
John’s joy sets off Elizabeth, who is suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and knows what is happening, which is to say, she is filled with joy, and she blurts out loudly, “Oh! ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” And the joy spreads, and then Mary knows too; joy opens up Mary’s heart and she sings out the great hymn of premembering, the Magnificat:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
 His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

And for the next three months the two women share life side by side, growing within and between them the promise for all the world. 

God is about to enter in to share it all with us.  So when this most precious and astounding of things about to happen, it must also be shared. Joy is not a solo act – because it is the electricity of our belonging to God and belonging to each other.  Whatever other questions, and worries, and wondering they bore, they did not bear them alone, and so neither did they taste eternity alone.  This pregnant elderly woman, her old, mute husband, and the unwed teenage mother who showed up on their doorstep, in the midst of what looked for all the world like an impossible situation, knew JOY. God is here, God is coming, and we get to be part of it!

*       *      *       *       *      *       *       *        *        *

Advent Evening Prayer: 
Tonight we join Elizabeth and her posse in the waiting.  
Tonight we bring whatever is on our hearts - whether heavy or light, we bring it to God. Our own places of impossibility and the world’s, our own darkness and the world’s, our own sadness or tiredness, wondering or worry, and that of the world.  And we let God who is here, and who is coming, meet us now.

Prayers for Joy you can do at home:

1- Contemplative Joy Walking Prayer: 

Get outside! 
Before you begin walking, pause and breathe, begin in rest.


Recall a time you felt joy with abandon.
As you walk, let yourself go back there in your mind. 
What was going on around you?
What were the sounds? Smells? Sights?
Where do you feel it in your body? 
Let yourself feel it as you walk.

Let this feeling and memory guide you.  

When you feel full of joy, begin noticing all around you, what are the sounds? Smells, sights? How does your body feel right now? 
Imagine walking each step inside God’s own joy.

When your walk is complete. Give Thanks.


2- Advent Joy World Prayer:

The world belongs to God.  
At every given moment, in every given place, there is at least one person who is feeling deeply connected with God’s reality – being guided by love, in touch with what God is doing, willing to feel it and celebrate it. 
 The Kingdom of God is here, and one day will fill all in all.  
As an Advent form of prayer, we wait for the fullness of God, and often we pray in sorrow and longing.  This prayer is a way to wait for that fullness by giving thanks for the fullness of God that already meets us, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Directions:

Pull up an image of a map of the world - either on the computer, or use a globe or paper map.

Where would you normally pray for God to come, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ with sorrow and longing?

Pray for that place, but this time, picture God already there, already doing something, in and through the people in that place, holding them in love, bringing healing and comfort. 


Whether you feel a sense of peace and trust, or you simply wish you could, Place your finger on that place and say aloud: Someone here is feeling joy right now.

Keep doing this until you feel your stomach unclench, and a sense of trust arise. Or when you feel ready to put it down.

3- Reflection/Action Joy Prayer:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, consider, What gives me joy?  
Brainstorm and write a list.

Do not read the next direction until you've completed your list.

(seriously, don't read the next part until you've written a list...)

When you are finished – read on.

These things you've just listed point directly to your particular calling in the world.

We feel Joy when we are connected to our true purpose –
living the way God has made us to share in
God’s love in the world.


Which one of these things will you do this week?

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