The Great ADVENTure

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.

Now,
O Lord,
calm me into a quietness
that heals
and listens,
and molds my longings
and passions,
my wounds
and wonderings
into a more holy
and human
shape.

Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace: Prayer for the Battle (p. 27)

Blessings for this sacred season

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5 Responses to The Great ADVENTure

  1. Dave Myers says:

    I have also thought that Joseph was under rated. I have always thought he was a wonderful example of obedience to God’s word. He did not divorce Mary when he was reassured there was a purpose. He obeyed and went to Egypt when told by an angel and then left when told and finally settled in Nazareth when told.
    However, I also find it ironic that Matthew spends 16 verses tracing Joseph’s lineage and yet Joseph is the only one who has no DNA in the game!

    • John Griffith says:

      Hi Dave, somehow I didn’t get a notice of your comment so that is why it has taken so long for me to reply.
      Matthew is the Hebrew Gospel,directed especially to the Jewish people,so lineage is important. There are four women mentioned at critical points in Jewish history. The fact that Joseph was not physically Jesus’ father was significant to Matthew’s purpose to show that Jesus was the Messiah. An interesting explanation of the richness of the lineage is at https://thebibleproject.com/blog/jesus-genealogies. And, as you mention love and obedience are also the message here. Matthew is the only Gospel writer that single’s out Joseph as significant for enabling Jesus to enter the world. I see his role as protector and enabler. He affirms Mary, believes Mary (the Angel helped), and surrenders to the truth of the moment (will of God?) Another fact baked into the story is that they were going home, Joseph’s home, to be enrolled in a census. Usually Joseph would have stayed with his family but this time he had to look for room at an inn. This seems to indicate that he was disowned by his family. The cost of discipleship needs to be recognized along with the blessings. Advent is a time to reflect on how much I am willing to risk for my beliefs or speak the truth that is uncomfortable. I have just finished Louise Penny’s latest book in the Inspector Gamache series, A Better Man. Gamache has a formula for sharing information: Is it true? Is it kind? Does it need to be said? In this series of books, Gamache is “the better man”.
      Advent and the Christmas story have so much wisdom and insight when we take time to pray with the story and look at the deeper significance. After 49 years of sermons and reflections, it is still a story that is relevant and alive for me.

  2. Noel Rea says:

    John,

    Many thanks for your stimulating and thoughtful blog.

    Go well.

    Noel

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. Brenda Wallace says:

    Ted Loder is one of my favourites. His prayer was used by in our worship folder during the 1990s and I repeat it in each new journal I begin. I’ll enter this one next to it. I have a few pieces of wisdom there as well from my good friend, John.

  4. Bonnae Mctavish says:

    John, I agree with you about Joseph being “left out”. Two Christmas seasons ago Peggy showed a nativity slide that showed Joseph with his head back, his face filled with joy and laughter at the birth of that very special child. I remember for the first time thinking that we do not celebrate his joy! He was a good man! Blessings to you and yours this season. Bonnae

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