Grace Notes: Advent 4

And so…

We’ve arrived at the final week of another Advent season. I pray that in the stillness, you were able to hear the voice of God in clearer, more precise tones: that in hearing, you have been convinced of the fact that in the midst of all that seems to be awry in the world, our creator-parent cares for [even the little] things that concern you personally, with no less fervor or attention to detail, than He does keeping the universe in alignment. Yes, that’s worth repeating; too often we relegate ourselves to the lowest rung of God’s priority ladder, deciding we are either not deserving of His time or attention or that there are other entities which require His attention more and yet…

If there’s anything I pray you have learned this Advent, it is that we: you, me, the world and all that is therein, are loved by God…uniquely!  There is nothing that concerns us; nothing that is of concern to us that is beyond the circle of divine love and compassion! God has a way of entering situations many of us consider insignificant, of enlisting the help and support of the most unexpected people and in doing so, creating the kinds of impact, with implications beyond our wildest imaginings.  Just read again today’s Gospel at Luke 1: 39 – 55 and be encouraged by the story of two of the most unlikely women, who dared to open their hearts to God’s possibilities, when all around seemed mired in despair. I don’t believe that either woman had the remotest idea what accepting God’s offer of a partnership in His salvation plan would entail; they just knew that the One in whom they trusted, the One whose omnipotence had been chronicled in the stories of their ancestors, the One they believed would be able to rescue them from present and future crises, had enlisted their support and they were prepared, not only to believe Him, they were prepared to trust that in and by him, despite whatever physical evidences there were to the contrary…all would be well.

That beloved, is not only the message of Advent viz. taking time to hear anew the quiet whisper of a loving God who longs to have relationship with us; it is also the theme of the hymn we have been contemplating these past weeks…On Jordan’s Bank. The cry of the Baptizer, as we discovered in the first two verses, was to alert the world to the new thing God was about to do…that political powers and dominions notwithstanding, God [who is ultimately in charge of His world] would make Himself known in ways that prove not only His power over but more so His love for all creation including and perhaps especially, that part made in His image.

The third and fourth verses then, enjoined perceiving and so placing complete trust in God, who has no interest in presumed status and with whom it is impossible to curry favor. This is God…the Almighty One, who enters the worlds of Elizabeth and Mary and amidst their many and varied longings, had the audacity to enlist their support and what’s more…

He is/wants to be the same with you and me!

The final verse of our hymn therefore, invites our embrace of an attitude of praise – a lifestyle that becomes a doxology to the One, whose Advent not only frees us from physical bondage but generates the liberating experiences of being in relationship with Him. It is in and by this unique freedom that we become confident, as Elizabeth and Mary were, in the knowledge that nothing – no thing, is able to separate us from God’s all-pervading love.

Elizabeth and Mary experienced the light of that love at a time when all seemed sunken in night.  Both, however, flung wide the doors of their hearts, not caring too much what others would think. They had met, and learned how to embrace and hold fast the promises of, One whose Word they could trust…and so can you and me.

You will agree with me that the challenges of our world are legion; the pain and grief associated with loss and the increasing inability to make sense of life from one moment to the next, leave many of us feeling overwhelmed. All too easily, we are drawn into the fear that hope is but a figment of our imaginations; we allow our circumstances and situations to elicit knee-jerk reactions rather than heart-felt responses to life. It is at such times, however, that like Elizabeth, Mary and all who have believed and still believe in the power of Almighty God to make the difference, you and I are challenged and invited, to make every celebration of Christmas, one of praise to the God of possibilities; God who looks beyond our flaws to perceive our need to be enveloped in His loving embrace and therein, experience the comfort and joy that comes from Him…alone.

So following Elizabeth’s and Mary’s lead, I invite us to this Christmastide, to prepare Him room and with the choirs of heaven and nature, supported by the words of this great hymn, make our lives a true doxology, to the Savior of the world…Jesus our Lord, Immanuel.

Contributed by: Canon Grace Jervis