The cycle of the Christian year begins again. I like beginnings. It is a sign of hope and new possibilities. At the beginning of the Christmas season, Advent gives me the opportunity to explore the depths of the mystery at the foundation of my life. There is the literal story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Then there is the bigger story of spiritual connections that embrace my own story and how I participate in the life of the universe. My journey has been a long road of continuing to find meaning in the religion I grew up in. And there have been challenges all along the way, as new information (other religions) and new traditions (science) have showed up to be included in my big picture of life.
As I dig deeper into the meaning of this sacred season, I have sometimes created poetry. For a few years I selected a poem form and let my heart and mind freely associate around the question: “How do I express the deep truth of the Christmas story this year?” These are two of my poems from previous years.
Celebrate the Sacred Story
Of the Universe Unfolding
Of Love Manifesting
Of the Divine Unfolding
And of darkness and light
Dancing in hope and promise
And it shall come to pass through you. Christmas 2008
Who knows what sacred life
We hold within us
Sacred seasons and meaningful moments
Witness to its presence
However, allowing it to take shape
Is our own work
I am never ready for the love
And the surprise in the face of being. Christmas 2007
I share these because they resonate with the incarnation we celebrate in the Christmas story as God comes to life–your life and my life–every time we take a moment to look for the mystery and power of love in the universe.
Another year, when I was still preaching, I did a deeper exploration into the characters in the Christmas story. We all know how Mary is lifted up as the Mother of God. But it struck me that Joseph is ignored. I asked an artist friend of mine to draw me some pictures of Joseph holding the child that I could use for my bulletin cover for the Sunday I spoke about Joseph. It strikes me again this year that male spirituality needs to be lifted up as equally important in the expression of love that the world needs. Joseph is the midwife in this story. He has to decide to either go along with conventional wisdom and divorce Mary privately (compassionately) or to openly embrace Mary and the unborn child – to allow the child to be born and be a gift to the world. The internal struggle was not easy.
This builds on my last post on white privilege and the power, that white men especially have, to open doors for people who have no voice. It is the same message that was written about in Queer Virtue (which I mentioned in the same blog). If we take our identity as Christians seriously and commit to express our identity and values authentically, we will be in conflict with conventional wisdom as we also provide one more channel for God to work in the world for love and transformation.
I wonder where my explorations will take me this year. There is a lot of negativity about the stress and the values of a season that has been hijacked by consumer culture, and not a lot of exploration of the meaning of the story – a story that could transform our life and mold it into a more holy and human shape.
This prayer by Ted Loder will be my inspiration for this season.
calm me into a quietness
and molds my longings
into a more holy
Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace: Prayer for the Battle (p. 27)
Blessings for this sacred season