I feel like it might be time for an Advent reflection.
I also feel like that statement truly makes me an Episcopalian. Take that, Confirmation! What I mean is, forget Confirmation/adhering to Episcopal theology and practices, the fact that I used the words "Advent" and "reflection" in the same sentence is really what qualifies my character as an Episcopalian. Also: making jokes about Confirmation. And if you got the joke, it is most likely that the above paragraphs made you laugh and/or are also true about you.
Lately (by lately, I mean the last 3 weeks of Advent), I have been teaching the kids here at church that Christmas starts on December 25th and lasts until Epiphany. That's 12 days. Right, the 12 days of Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas does not start on December 13 or anywhere else besides December 25th. The time leading up to Christmas is called Advent. It lasts for 4 weeks. There is an Advent wreath, and Advent calendar, Advent candles. So many rituals exist because Advent is a time of preparation. We are preparing for Jesus to be born, because without Jesus, all the rest of the stuff we do doesn't really matter all that much. They are also learning that Lent, the 6 weeks before Easter is also a time of preparation and has a lot in common with Advent. The most obvious thing is that we put out all of our purple stuff in the church for both seasons. Purple=color of kings, which means it's probably foreshadowing something important, like the birth or the death of our King, Jesus. We also talked about how Advent is called Advent because it's the beginning of the Church Year. Advent=beginning. Neat, huh?
In the Episcopal Church, it is really important to us to recognize and learn about the different seasons within the church year. It's how we mark time both physically and spiritually. We think it is hard to pick a reading for a Sunday, read it, and have someone preach on it. We don't do a "series" on a certain subject and preach on it. We take the Gospel and go chronologically through it, so we hear the entire story. So, if you're in an Episcopal church EVERY Sunday for 3 years, you will have read all 4 Gospels and most of the Bible. I really dig this; it puts the story of God in perspective for me.
When Advent is happening, I get really excited for a lot of things: hot chocolate, the River playing Christmas music, thinking of fun creative gifts to give my family and friends. Christmas is impending. It's always here before I know it. But Advent is the time I'm supposed to be preparing my heart for God's gift to us. Both the birth and the death of Jesus are dependent on the other.
So I end up thinking about God's relationship to me, to Mary and Joseph, and to Jesus. But this year I'm really more concerned with God's relationship to Mary. Last year, it was Joseph. There's been some John the Baptist in there this year, too. But mostly Mary.
And it's obvious why: I am so super close to someone who is pregnant. Although I'm not the one having the kid, it's been the highlight of my week to get the phone call from my sister that says, "So, I was just calling to tell you that the Bean has arms and legs this week! And I saw it kick its little leg! It's the size of a grape!" This is week 9 of the Bean's beginning. And it has been amazing to experience the excitement of the baby's growth. And get this: next week, week 10, the Bean will get a BRAIN. And in the weeks after that, eyelids and eyeballs, elbows and knees, fingers and fingernails, skin and hair, and soon it will be able to breathe in Claire's belly. It will turn away from a bright light shined on her belly, it will roll around and stretch and step on her organs. It moves me to tears to think about how amazing the entire process is. It's all completely divine, and makes it more obvious to me every day that I have the most wonderful Creator. As much as I love the Bean who is only the size of a grape with arms and legs, God loved me even more than I love the Bean. God also loves my sister, and trusts her to take care of the Bean.
I can't even imagine how God must have felt about Mary, or how Mary must have felt about Jesus. I'm sure that my sister is nervous that she is going to do something wrong, or not be healthy enough, or do the wrong thing. She is doing everything she can to protect this life, because it is already SO beloved. And I can't even imagine how God must have felt about Jesus. Not just because Jesus was his son, but also because of the whole process.
I'm all about relating to the humanity of Jesus. Thinking about him walking, breathing, doing embarrassing things, riding in a boat, eating dinner, hanging out with his friends...I love to know that he did the same things I did. But now I can think about him the way I am amazed by the Bean; he, just like me, you, and the Bean, was once a grape with arms and legs. His brain formed during the 10th week that Mary was pregnant, too! It's not like they had ultrasounds back then; it was a good thing the angel came to tell Mary she was having a boy. I sure hope she wasn't one of those people that doesn't want to know the sex of their baby until it's born, because the surprise was definitely ruined.
Well, I know how I feel about Jesus, and I know how I feel about the Bean. A lot of the feelings are the same: wonder, awe, love...just to name a few.
O crimmas tree, O crimmas tree, how Looney loves to sniff you...