Advent Week Four December 22-24, 2019
Love is everything. It is meant to be received vulnerably and it is meant to be given freely. When we love, we live into who we were created to be; that is, we are rightly relating to one another.
As we are members of creation, it becomes necessary to our selfhood that we reflect on what it means to be in right relation with all of creation. When we are disconnected from the rest of creation (human and non-human), we are disconnected from our Creator, because it is only through relationships that we can be fully ourselves.
Thus, these two days before Christmas, work to de-center yourself by focusing on how connected you are to all of creation, especially non-human creation. Think about the connections that you have with the land on which you live; as you sit down to eat a meal, reflect on how long it took to grow that food and how many miles it took to bring it to you; think about the species that dwelled on the land before it was taken up by buildings; think about land practices that consider all of creation and not just humans; think about the season of winter and how it provides rest to the land.
In his book God Still Matters, Jesuit theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “Love is rather rare and comes with maturity when we can get away from the need to be dominant or to find another who is not dominant… the essential gift you give to the one you love is the gift of space to exist, the gift of liberation.”
Think about love as creating space for others to exist. It is not fluffy or weak, but rather, it is a strong, faithful, solid showing up for one another. This also means that you create space for you to exist… loving yourself, valuing your gifts, and believing in your worth.
Use this time of Advent to consider how you create space for you to be your fullest self. Consider how you create space for others to be their fullest selves. This kind of love draws us into a new narrative about ourselves and about the world.
Luke 1:26-38, 46-55 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.” Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
God has looked with favor on the low status of God’s servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is God’s name. God shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors God. God has shown strength with God’s arm.
God has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
God has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
God has come to the aid of God’s servant Israel,
remembering God’s mercy,
just as God promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
John 13:33-35 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
“Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat. Love is why we have hope.” -Anne Lamott; Almost Everything: Notes on Hope
Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can. -Archbishop Oscar Romero
Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:
O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming.
Teach us love in our waiting. Amen.
Questions to consider: If love is creating space for others to be their fullest selves (human and non-human), what does this look like for you? If you are married or in a committed partnership, what does this look like for you and your spouse? If you parent, what does this look like for in relationship to your children? If you are single, what does this look like with your most trusted, beloved people? What does this look like for the stranger who is your neighbor but whom you have never met and may never know?
Spiritual Practices: This week, consider incorporating two spiritual practices into your week. First is the practice of lectio divina, which is a form of contemplative reading of scripture. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures. You can use Luke 1:26-56 in this practice, or choose your favorite Bible passage. Read the text aloud slowly. Read it aloud again. Hold it in silence. Consider a phrase that jumps out at you and ask why? Carry the phrase with you all day. Read it aloud one more time, but this time, read it as a prayer.
The second spiritual practice to incorporate this last week of Advent is service. If love is creating space in the world for others to be their fullest selves, then consider what you can do to facilitate this. Can someone be their best self if they are starving, if they do not have clean water, or a warm place to sleep? Can someone be their fullest self if they are living in a prison of shame? Can someone be their fullest self if they are your enemy? Maybe service this week looks like reconciliation with one who has wronged you… maybe this forgiveness is the liberation you both need. Maybe service is a physical act of caring for another’s humanity. Maybe service is coming your faith community and lending a helping hand. Create space in the world by your love this week.