Something New Comes
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of San Anselmo, CA, USA
Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. —Isaiah 2:3–4 NRSV
I sit to ponder Advent in the middle of August, far from the season’s promising glow. It’s hard to imagine dark, waiting nights in the radiance of a summer sun. For a moment I am tempted to believe that everything that can be said has been said. How many times can I write about Advent and discover still something new?
But the something new comes. Maybe not be a fresh word or meaning, but it is often a fresh understanding of words and meanings becoming embedded ever deeper in my soul, formed by this cycle of sacred stories told. The moment we think we already know, already can tell how this story ends, the story becomes alive in us in ways we could not have imagined. The context of our hearing of sacred story always changes. I am listening this year with different desires, doubts, and dreams than I did the year past.
Some years I am Mary, uttering a fearful yes. Other years I am the wise men searching the silky night skies for that brightest star of hope. I hate to confess that I am sometimes even Herod, prone to destruction and unwilling to accept the cost of ego diminished. Sometimes I am observer of nativity. Sometimes I am giving birth. Sometimes I am being born.
Advent, this expectation of divine life anew, is a season we celebrate and a conviction we live. I heard of a community that sang “What Child Is This?” on Good Friday, a haunting convergence of these sacred seasons. It sparked in them a reminder of what Christmas and Easter have in common, of the fragility of human life and the perennial promise of all things being made new. Advent can happen at any time, whether standing at the cross or on an ordinary day under the heat of the summer sun.
The season of Advent is for forming us intentionally in the pattern of expectant hope—a hope that carries us to Christmas and beyond. The discipline of living through Advent year after year, amid the shifting contexts of our lives, grows in us Advent vision when we need it most.
What is your context for this year’s holy hearing of this sacred story? How might you be open to fresh meaning as you let this season unfold into the details and realities of your life? Be prepared for something new to come.
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?