Perhaps no more so than in this Lectionary Year B, do we feel the aching longing, the anxious expectation, and the courage that it takes for us to experience the birth of God into the midst of a hurting world.
We begin the Advent Season with Isaiah’s gut-wrenching cry from the depths of despair, “Oh God! If only you would tear the heavens open and come down” to heal a world gripped by disaster. The following week, John the Baptizer tears across the landscape of Empire with a message of radical renewal. Only in Advent Three does it begin to “feel a bit like Christmas,” in part because we have our KidZone Christmas Play to lead the way towards the light and hope of the Stable. But even this journey, seen through the eyes of Joseph, is one fraught with doubt and decision. As week three turns to the final week, the waiting, like every pregnancy, gives way to the reality of new life, new hope, and new roles for those who care for the newborn Gospel of God. Advent Four lifts the veil on the heart and soul of Mary as she learns of the child she carries, and as she sings of the hopes and fears of all the years, met in the promised Child. But even this scene of maternity is overlaid with the language of revolution; Mary sings of God, who has and will lift the lowly, and cast down the mighty.
I don’t know about you, but for me this ancient story resonates so closely with our anguished world of today. As I write this, I’m watching updates on strong women singing out their own Magnificats against gender injustice, and strong, brave people of all races standing in prayer vigil in Ferguson, Missouri. This is a world longing, fraught and anxious for a word of hope, longing for God to tear the heavens open to come into our world with justice, peace, love and hope.