Waiting, Preparing, Journeying, Hoping
By Michele McGrath of Blue Springs, MO, USA
Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet. —Matthew 2:1b, 5 NRSV
Unless you’re newborn yourself, you may have experienced it before, many times over. Christianity’s rhythm is cyclic, repetitive. Still, in the same way that we can continually find new gusts of loveliness and truth in old scriptures our eyes have taken in before, each Advent is a fresh encounter. Not because the story is new, but because the cosmos has changed—we have changed. The Word is new because the world is new.
To tell it straight, I have never felt anything like a wise man. But this year, my wandering has crossed theirs, and our intersection is giving me hope. Let me explain.
First, these wise men and I, not one of us seems to possess anything resembling a map. Since the territory for Christians in a postmodern world is all new, there just doesn’t seem to be a reliable map. There is no “Mission for Dummies,” no “Ten Steps for Living Incarnately.” (I’ve googled it!) Passing through Christendom someone tried to sell us a map, but now we know better.
These magi have something better. Something ancient yet new that points the way: a star. So, too (cyclic and repetitive, remember?), we have something ancient yet new that points the way: renewed engagement in the spiritual practices that have borne the faith of would-be disciples for millennia. These spiritual practices are deepening our ties with God, others, and the cosmos we occupy in ways that are real and meaningful. They are working themselves out in our lives in terms of amplified attention to hospitality, generosity, and justice and what that looks like in our own contexts.
It is all around us. I hear it in random conversations on the train. I see it in a hundred mundane daily interactions. I feel it in the air—crisper and more breathtaking than the coming snow.
With our eyes no longer blinded by neon Christendom, we are beginning to once again accustom our eyes to what Barbara Brown Taylor calls the “really real.” Then and only then will opportunities begin to emerge from the darkness, and we will be able to see the Hope of the World more clearly.
Advent Prayer Phrase
Anticipation deepens within.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Spend a few moments dwelling in God’s presence. Pay attention to where your heart feels drawn into prayer. What words, images, or themes in this story lead you to reflect on your own faith journey? What is God’s invitation to you this day?