Awaiting His Arrival: From Doubt to Assurance

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Matthias Stomer’s Annunciation

 

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?
Luke 1:18

“How will this be?” Mary asked the angel
Luke 1:34

Zechariah asks:
How can I be sure?
How can I trust this is true even when it doesn’t make sense in my every day world?
How can I trust God to accomplish this?

These are not the questions to be asked;
he was struck mute, speechless until immersed in the miracle of impossibility
and only then assured by the Lord and released from silence, he sang loudly with praise.

Instead, we are to ask, like Mary:
How can this be?
How am I worthy?
How am I to be confident within incomprehensibility and calm in the midst of mystery?
How am I to be different as a result?

It is when we are most naked,
at our very emptiest,
that we are clothed and filled with God’s glorious assurance.
We do not need to be sure
to accept what He asks of us.
We just need to be.
Changed.

 

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.
With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season

Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.
The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.
~Sylvia Plath from “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”

Awaiting His Arrival: An Advent Series

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It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
~Madeleine L’Engle “In the Darkest Hour”

 

The Advent Series theme on Barnstorming this year will be “Awaiting His Arrival” ~~ both the anticipated Advent arrival of God on earth as a helpless newborn, and when He comes again someday to this sick and sorry world.

His first arrival was in the midst of great distress between people whose faith was eroding into legalism and gods of their own making, along with interminable conflict between nations fighting over the same land and same issues as continues today.

Into such mean and gloomy darkness came a great Light.   As stated by modern martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  God’s coming to earth is “frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.”

The editors’ introduction to one of my favorite Advent books Watch for the Light includes this thought:
“The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon.  This love reveals sin and overcomes it.  It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53).”

So it is this love in action within our midst to be pondered in this Advent month of reflections — how His love came to change our world and ourselves and how we are meant to respond.  As Jan Richardson writes in Night Vision, “That’s just how Advent works.  What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you.  And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s hindquarters fade in the distance.  So stay.  Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder.”

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He died with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.
~Madeleine L’Engle from “First Coming”

Lonely Light

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barnyardlightour first snowfall of the season just started

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.
~Ted Kooser “Flying at Night”

 

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Every Every Minute

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haywagonHappy Thanksgiving from our farm to yours….

We all know that something is eternal.
And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names,
and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars
. . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal,
and that something has to do with human beings.
All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that
for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised
how people are always losing hold of it.
There’s something way down deep
that’s eternal about every human being.

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

~Thorton Wilder, quotes from “Our Town”

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Ill with Thirst

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…we invite him purely and simply,
so that our thought of him is an invitation,
a longing cry.
It is as when one is in extreme thirst,
ill with thirst;
then one no longer thinks of the act of drinking in relation to oneself,
nor even of the act of drinking in a general way.
One merely thinks of water,
actual water itself,
but the image of water is like a cry from our whole being.
~Simone Weil from “Waiting for God”

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Untangling the Threads

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Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs–

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
~Rainer Maria Rilke  “Sunset”

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