2016 is the first time I observed Advent. It is also the year I first observed Lent. Something had broken inside me that was also clearly broken in the world; I was done. Prayer and observing the church calendar were the only things I knew to do to try and connect more deeply with my faith so I could keep going. Pastors on Twitter were a big help to guide me on this liturgical journey that was not available to me previously. I am also forever grateful for Diana Butler Bass’s article about Advent that came out this year -2016- too:
Diana’s article helped me feel less alone, and it captured feelings that were sorely missing in the world I was living. How could all of these awful things be happening and people not feel it? Why are people not acting shocked by the behavior of our politicians and those around us who are saying things they would not have said a few months ago, at this point? Why am I being unfriended and blocked when I am taking a stand against a sexual predator who was also unapologetically racist? None of this made sense.
Yes, I feel like what Diana Butler Bass describes in this article even in 2021–I need the blue candles, please. We need a symbol reminding us that Advent is something deeper—waiting, listening, preparing—for God. And a lot of times, it is a time we actually do feel blue. In the book The Spirit of Adoption by my professor, Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, she reminds us that God does not speak to us in the barren spaces only; we hear God more clearly in the barren spaces. This is true, and scriptures testifies to this.
I will be blatantly honest, I am tired of singing songs about kingdoms and talking about a male savior who is going to save us all one day. There has to be something better than that to hope for, and in. Where is the language for women who have also pursued the hard work of salvation? The women who are still doing the hard work and have stayed in a faith that has dehumanized them and sought to silence them? This is still happening today.
In this moment, Mother Mary comes to me.
Mary said yes to God—who asked for her permission and we rarely emphasize that—in a time when all hope seemed lost. She did not say yes because she saw any sign things were getting better at that moment when she said yes. She had prepared herself to hear the voice of God who cared about her. God trusted Godself to a woman to enter this world. A woman who had to be broken and poured out for him (in this instance I will say him because we are talking about Jesus) in order for Jesus to enter this world. Where God and humans work together for a better world. God became finite, and being male is part of God’s finite status, to be with us. Not because we are wretched, but because we are God’s delight. All of creation is. I love speaking of the universe as God’s body.
Something I learned from Rob Bell when I was down-and-out waiting for the light to break in: when we are creating something deeper, the number of views will be lower. The people in our lives might not be sharing our work because it is not going to get the same number of clicks and likes as the old familiar story will. He said this as if he was talking directly to me: Remember you are doing something deeper. It takes time to change a narrative and for people to hear it—even if the change in narrative is what has been true all along. Some people have been sharing that story for a long time and still receive no attention for it. We get used to the chaos and are uncomfortable when people break free from it . Trying to raise our voices in the world of faith as women is really hard. If it is not by patriarchy’s rules, women will be silenced—even if unintentionally. I see that now.
I have to remind myself that Jesus was not about protecting his image. If he was about image he would not have gone to the woman (who has a name but was silenced by the author) at the well, who had a bad reputation for numerous reasons, and had the longest conversation recorded in any of the gospels with HER (John 4)! He freed her by letting her know that how she viewed herself, and how society viewed her, is not how God views her. He would not have engaged the man in the Tombs who needed help and driven the demons out of him if he was worried about his image (Mark 5). The man, who also has a name, dwelling in the tomb’s community was more comfortable when he was not in his right mind because it was better for the economy that way, and they drove Jesus away. But so many more people came to know the power of God because Jesus engaged these two people. You can see that when you read stories that follow that reveal more and more people are finding out about Jesus. Jesus was not looking for crowds but for people who needed and wanted healing. That made the difference.
I think about the number of times I have preached-twice in person, that is it. I have not preached in front of a large crowd, but the crowd I have spoken to was ready for what was shared. That feels holy to me. There is something deeper happening and it may not be the story people (including me) are looking for. The stone that the builder’s rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22, Mark 12:10-11). I have to keep reminding myself of this. Advent is a great time to remember, listen, prepare, and give our prophetic yes to God. Mary is an example to remember in this season. We are waiting for Jesus because Mary said yes.
There is more to say and the words will come when the time is right. I wait in hope.