Sunday, December 18, 2022

Advent in 300 Words: The Prophets, Joseph, Mary, The Angels


THE PROPHETS (11/26) - by Kara K Root

The prophets, with their vivid eschatological imaginations, lead us into Advent.  Off the grid, out of the empire folks with fantastic stories, absurd confrontations and wild encounters, the prophets criticize and energize. They shake the façade keeping everyone content and accepting the unacceptable. God uses prophets to hold before God’s people a vision of who they really are and who God really is, because they keep forgetting. 
The prophets reveal God’s future breaking in now. They anticipate God’s coming, teach us how to watch for it, and show us how to live now from what will be.  In their own lives, they didn’t get to taste the fulfillment they spent their lives promising.  But their holy imagination, ruthless honesty and deep trust shaped our ancestors, our faith, and continue to stir us today.  
The prophet Isaiah speaks to a people living in exile, whose imaginations have shrunk to their captivity. Terrible things have happened to them, and they’ve made terrible choices. They’re stuck. Their life is small, their hope is dead. The end.
But if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.  
Isaiah paints a poetic image of a new beginning, tender green shoot from the dead ground. Like a whisper, a stirring, a savior comes. Instead of division and striving, self-protection and fear, the savior ushers in a new reality: In the reign of God, all people, all creatures in all the world will live freely, fully, unafraid, connected in peace. Hope is the energy of peace, the anticipation of what is coming, the fuel of our faithful living now.  

May hope grow our eschatological imaginations. With holy imagination, ruthless honesty, and deep trust we wait, with and for each other and for the world, for the coming of Christ.  

We hope with the anticipation of the prophets.

Jean-Marie Pirot (aka Arcabas) The angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a Dream

JOSEPH (12/4) - by Kara K Root

His fiancé pregnant with someone else’s baby, Joseph’s been made to look a fool. A righteous man with an impressive pedigree, Joseph seems a worthy candidate to parent the Messiah. But instead of waiting until Joseph and Mary are properly married, God puts him in a moral quandary. Heartbroken and betrayed, good guy Joseph will do the right thing –dismiss Mary quietly and preserve his own dignity. 
All our biblical ancestors are either terrible candidates for the job, or lose everything for the role. Otherwise, we might think inherent goodness qualifies us to participate with God, or humanity is graded on a scale, or God’s grace can be earned or lost.  We might strive instead of rest, put our own virtue above others’ well-being, and bear the weight of saving the world ourselves.
But this is God’s story. God chooses misfits, screw-ups, and the impossibly unqualified, like overlooked youngest sons, ignored foreign women, people with barren, ancient or virgin wombs, incapacitating stutters, or colorful rap sheets. In their brokenness they find a new identity as participants with God in healing and redeeming the world.  
Broken, Joseph must trade what was for what will be. He will agree to appear as something that he is not – this child’s father, and in so doing, he will become his father after all.  Joseph’s life is now grace unearned and forgiveness unmerited, where everybody belongs and nobody is dismissed, quietly or otherwise. Joseph will anticipate the future of God by accepting his role in it now.  
His child will not become an upstanding, good citizen, but a subversive vagabond who hangs with sinners and outcasts, confronts corruption and evil, and refuses to totalize or dismiss anyone. Resting, trusting, living fully connected to God and every other human, this baby will set the world free.

MARY (12/10) - by Lisa Larges

My forever-morose, impossibly big-hearted, brokedown rock and roller coworker, Dan, the other day referenced a line from the 60s’ rock band King Crimson, “Confusion will be my epitaph.” It felt just right.

It’s why I love Wordle. Just challenging enough to seem like it might even be good for me but doable, and within a reasonable amount of time, and with that delicious snap of resolution at the end, that gives your brain the sweet sensation of having made something right. It’s a tiny island of order in a sea of chaos. It’s the finished amidst the incomplete, the to-done amidst the to-dos. Much else is stubbornly unresolved, or just plain baffling.

So it is that Mary should be the saint of the perplexed. Her response to the angel isn’t so much joy, as it is confusion. The Greek is emphatic: she was agitated and turned over in her mind – tried to bring together, what sort of greeting this was. Later she will tell her cousin Mary, in an extended monologue we call the Magnificat, that the world is completely upside down. And then, after the baby is born and the shepherds come and tell of the angels, she will ponder what it all might mean.

Here at Lake Nokomis, we ask one another the question, often with joy and energy, What is God up to? But, oh, my goodness, sometimes, it’s just baffling to us; it’s agitation and bewilderment. I admire Mary’s pluckiness to even have the wherewithal to ask a question. Most of all, I resonate with the question itself, which really just comes down to “Um, What?”

So it is beloved ones that confusion is the good news. God is up to something that is beyond our understanding; crashing into this world, finding us, redeeming history. It is the mystery that is love, the uncertainty and confusion that comes with living with your heart wide open. 

It is Christmas.

Annunciation to the Angels, Daniel Bonnell

THE ANGELS (12/18) - by Kara K Root

When my kids were little, from time to time they’d sidle up and ask me who I loved most.  
I would answer their sibling’s name. 
Maisy. Owen’s eyes would widen. 
And then I’d say, But loving Maisy makes me love you more.
So, me? He’d whisper.
Yes. I’d respond. And loving you makes me love Maisy more!
So, her? 
This infuriated them. 
Fear can’t imagine that love doesn’t ration or compare, love compounds and expands.  

Into our telling of the most astonishing and wonderful news ever spoken on earth creeps fear. On earth peace among those whom God favors. Among the good ones. The ones God loves best.
These messengers of the Divine shouting good news of great joy for all the people have watched God dote over humanity like a new grandma who can’t stop showing photos on her almighty iphone to every pausing passerby. They watch God revel in each new word and every first step, croon over the witty contemplations and clever creations, adore the squishy flesh and wiggly joints of us. They’ve seen God’s heart thrill and anguish for us, and they know, without jealousy or doubt, that those made in God’s very own image are actually God’s favorite. 

Peace on earth among God’s favorite ones! They yell with uproarious joy, Harmony and rightness and goodness and wholeness among you in whom God most delights!  
Interrupting the ordinary night of ordinary shepherds (God’s favorites), celestial messengers declare that love greater than fear or death is turning the world upside down.  

You who God loves most: God is so excited to love you right up close, by being loved by you! Don’t be scared. Tiny, fragile and new, the Source of All slips into the world needing our care;  God pulls the world into love’s immeasurability.

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