Reflection for Sunday – December 13

Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter my family held a baby shower for me. I usually only dress up when I have to or when I haven’t done laundry and don’t have anything else clean. And pregnancy was no exception for me.

I still remember the dress I wore to the shower. It was late in my pregnancy and I was as big as a house. The only thing that fit was a borrowed maternity dress. I hated it. It was teal and foofy. It had a great big bow on the front. While I was very grateful to my family and for all the wonderful gifts, I mostly just wanted to get back into my sweats and climb into bed for a nap.

As I was leaving, arms loaded with gifts I could barely hang onto past my big belly, my four-year-old nephew came over to kiss me goodbye. His mother explained that we had the party today because “Aunt Nora has a baby in her tummy.” Stephen didn’t need to be told twice. He flopped down on the floor at my feet, looked up my dress and demanded, “Let me see it!” No amount of explaining could convince him that the baby was not yet available for viewing.

It’s too much to believe, far too astounding, the unknown, the unseen, the unexplainable. Like Stephen’s confusion over the simple human miracle of birth, we are confused and confounded by the miracle about to happen before us. This advent time is a chance to “wake up” in wonder and be amazed: How does this happen, that in our frailty, God also becomes frail, puts on flesh and comes to us as one of us.

Gaudete Sunday: This is the week we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, the joy is near, the light is getting brighter in the midst of the world’s darkness.

Joy is different from cheerfulness. Joy has room for pain, for heartbreak even. If you are in one of those seasons in your life right now, reeling from loss or grappling with a new reality of illness, financial strain or family troubles, this season can hit hard with its relentless “cheer.” Joy says “there’s something good on the other side of this, even if I can’t touch it right now.”

The opposite of joy seems to be, not sadness, but fear. Listen to these lines from today’s scriptures:
• You have no further misfortune to fear.
• Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged.
• I am confident and unafraid. 
My strength and my courage is the LORD.
• Have no anxiety at all.

Our Gospel today takes a different tone though. John’s call is one of transformation—don’t cheat, don’t extort, don’t falsely accuse, be content with your wages, and share food and clothing with those who go without.

On retreat with my youth group, we asked the kids to rewrite this passage but set it in their own high school. Instead of the tax collectors and soldiers that John advises in today’s Gospel, they had advice for jocks and geeks, for the popular kids, and even teachers and administrators on how to turn their lives around, how to move from selfishness to selfLESSness.

It was pretty funny but also pretty profound. I’m tempted in these current days to rewrite this passage for world leaders and politicians… but whenever that temptation strikes I usually need to look a little closer to home. It’s so easy to name what other people need for their transformation and not look at my own need to live differently.

Stillness, darkness, silence¬—as I contemplate the next few weeks these advent words are not the words that come to mind for me. The season of advent in many ways is the antithesis of what’s going on in the culture right now, as advent calls for stillness we are going 100 miles an hour.
I invite you though in these next few days to find a moment to sit in darkness, in stillness, maybe a moment alone in the car, an early morning or a late night, to sit with the questions of today’s readings and of the season:

• What fears are keeping me from joy?
• What transformation is God calling me to, what needs to change in my life so I can be ready for Jesus to come into my heart, into my life?
• What am I longing for, watching for, waiting for?

And light a candle within yourself, a reminder that Jesus has come to you, dwells within you and also has a light for you to carry out into the darkness of the world.

“Be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst.”

Nora Bradbury-Haehl

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