Getting Ready to Pray
There is the song from the musical play, Mame, whose main line is, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.”
But before I need Christmas, I need a little emptiness, darkness and silence. These Advent days do get busier, packed, brighter and louder. What I want is an experience of being redeemed, recreated, renamed, and reborn. I would like to be more watchful and alert to how loved I am and how many ways there are to bring Christ to life in the world around me.
Our human condition is scattered and quite unsure about what or to whom we belong. Our personal prayer is that of all humanity as well. “Why do you let us wander?” “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.”
Israel experiences itself as distant from God and pleads that God would look down from heaven and come right down here and change her behavior.
There is a hint that it is actually God’s fault that Israel has wandered away and been so sinful. If God were closer, Israel would be better. And for all their mild and prayerful complaining, the Prophet Isaiah does recall the name of God in Israel is “Abba” and “Potter” and Israel, who was created as God’s people, now admits it needs to be refashioned, renamed and recreated.
There is a strong sense of longing to belong again in this reading. There are some pitiful cries for God to not seem so far away, but return to the intimacy of ages past.
The Gospel is a section from Mark’s lead-up to Christ’s Passion. The entire chapter deals with the ending of things. For all the images of coming disasters possible, Jesus is exhorting his followers to have states of readiness.
“Be watchful. Be alert.” “Watch!” These are strong words which catch the ear of his disciples. They are also words by which Jesus himself has lived his personal mission of redeeming this world.
Awareness can be a function of fear, but also of love. If being redeemed is our final end and if Jesus’ mission was to redeem us and bring us all back to the hands of the “potter,” the Creator, then fear of his coming is not the final disaster, but the final revelation of God’s creative love.
Jesus uses a little image which is important but can be easily overlooked. He uses the image of a land owner who goes on a journey, but leaves his servants “each with his own work” to do.
The challenge is not just to stay awake, but to be awake so as to do the work of bringing light and life to God’s world.
Waiting and watching out of fear is passive and paralyzing. Waiting in faith is eager and exciting. We can wait expecting to be caught, or expecting to be caught up in our part in his coming into this world.
When I was young, the emptiness in our living room was replaced with branches whose fullness promised completion. Darkness was replaced by as many lights as our electrical system would permit. Silence was moved out by carols and stories of the old times. We kids enjoyed it all of course, but it was all about having and waiting for more.
I sound like an old fuddy-duddy now, but what I ask of Christmas has changed and the days bringing Christmas to me are different.
Stay awake, alert and watchful for what’s coming and who’s coming next.
The Lord will shower his gifts, and our land will yield its fruit.