I spent last Christmas in Berkeley with the Deacon and Deaconess and attended Christmas Eve services with them at their church. The night before, the Deacon and I had stayed up late catching up, talking about the state of life these days and what it’s like to be an adult. It was the kind of conversation you can only have with someone who has known you since before you could speak; we shared the experience of being kids together, and now we share the experience of being adults together. One thing we both noted was that, at some point in our lives, we thought the idea was to have everything pretty well planned out. We expected life to progress in a neat, linear fashion in which we decided what we wanted to be, then went to college to be that. Reality turned out very differently for both of us. We studied what we loved and stumbled into loosely related careers, each pursuing our multitude of other interests on the side, discovering that life, indeed, did not revolve around a vocation and was infinitely less predictable than we had been led to believe. We each agreed that we could not have planned to be where we are now, and yet, we have found ourselves in very good places, able to see, in retrospect, how circumstances and experiences have collaborated beautifully to place us here. We talked about the need for trust, faith, and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.
At the Christmas Eve service, the sermon was about the Christian story of the Annunciation, in which an angel comes to Mary to announce that she will give birth to the Messiah. The minister emphasized that Mary was a teenager, living in a highly religious and patriarchal society, who had just been told she would become an unwed mother. Women had been stoned for less. Yet she responded with an uncategorical yes, without being able to see how, exactly, that plan was going to work.
I was reminded of that recently when I read a post on Advent in the Deacon/Deaconess blog and one on faith in the Nurse’s blog. Shortly thereafter, I picked up Walking on Water, by the recently deceased Madeleine L’Engle, in which she writes on faith and creativity. L’Engle beautifully linked the idea of Mary’s pregnancy and birth with the process of bringing a work of art into the world. She talked about the need for the artist to listen to the Divine voice that rises out of the collective unconscious and to serve that voice, not allowing the individual ego to get in the way.
Growing up, I never thought much about Advent. As an adult, I have come to think of it as a time to remember that we are all Mary, bringing the Divine spark that only we can give birth to into the world. It’s a time to remember to have faith, to trust, and to respond to the Divine with an unreserved yes, frightening though it may be.