The Rector's Column December 2015

 by The Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin, Rector

It seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
All she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
flutterings
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction- spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable
defense.

And it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing-
God's shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven's hopes
and summon God's glory.

                                                   Lucy Shaw (bn. 1928)

Advent and Christmas are not the same thing, despite what our popular culture tells us.

Christmas is about the Birth, the Child, the Different Thing God does in our world in the Incarnation.

Advent is about getting ready for that Different Thing; about preparing our hearts and our homes, our souls and our spirits for the stunning, shocking in-breaking of God into our lives. This season we began on November 29 is about slowing down, listening, leaning into God's future, allowing God's breath to fill our lungs.

Advent also reminds us, as the poem above indicates, that we are not passive spectators to the marvel of the Incarnation: we are active participants in the Word made flesh, called, during this holy and pregnant season, to "further heaven's hopes and summon God's glory" in whatever ways we can. It is a vocation for which we are all completely unsuited. Being handmaids to the birth of the Holy One is too much to ask of us feeble, frail, faulty people. And God asks us, anyway: to proclaim peace; to live with compassion and charity; to reach out in care and humility; to manifest the manifestation of divine grace and self-offering.

This Advent, pause. Breathe. Listen for God's presence with your heart and your soul and even your ears. Help further heaven's hopes. Become more and more part of the Different Thing: divine love made flesh in a world profoundly hungry forthat love.