Beloved St. John’s community,
This coming Sunday our church begins its liturgical year all over again—the first Sunday of Advent, which is always a time of hopeful waiting and expectancy. It is no accident that this hopeful waiting is precisely timed when the year is darkest. As the days grow shorter, and the nights longer, our expectancy does not die but instead grows. The birth of Jesus happens very close to the time of the winter solstice, the very darkest day of the year. And into that darkness, a light and a tremendous, unshakeable joy happens. It is the joy of the good news that God is not, has never been, and never will be primarily found outside us or primarily in the world of the abstract—whether that be your favorite intellectual exercise, theological belief, or spiritual experience—but in the world of flesh, birth, and the real stuff of human and creaturely existence. In our bodies, which are the site of God’s presence and revelation.
That this joy and new beginning comes in the in the dark seems about right to me. When I was pregnant with Carly, her due date arrived, but she did not. I remember saying to her that evening: I have been waiting my whole life for you, and I realize you may not be ready, but I am! Later, after I had gone to sleep, I began dreaming I was in labor. I woke and found that labor had begun in reality. In the dark, when the world is at rest—whether that be winter, or the wee hours of the night when everything is quiet—new things can finally begin to emerge in all their tender vulnerability.
What new beginning is God’s Spirit seeking to birth at St. John’s, and in Linden Hills, and the world?
Let’s walk through Advent with that sense of anticipation. We don’t know the answer to these questions yet. It might be that shepherds and magi from outside our culture and community recognize it before we do. But we can trust that that this new beginning will be cause for an unconditional joy that transcends the superficial cheer of our cultural holidays, because it includes discovering and encountering Emmanuel, God-With-Us. Sometimes Emmanuel shows up in the form of people at the margins, the shared sacrament of Christ’s presence in our community, and in unexpected new invitations to Beloved Community. Let’s anticipate those and be ready for them when they come.
In Christ’s love,