“How can this be?” We all can resonate with Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel on hearing that she was to be the bearer of God into the world! And yet it is a question worthy of multiple situations where God keeps doing the unexpected. Personally, I say it every time I find myself here at Grace, constantly amazed at how God is made human in your presence.
We might receive a message in a dream or come across God’s fiery presence in the sun shining across the valley, and maybe for a small few in a burning bush. We read a scripture that suddenly grips us, or a phrase or image in a sermon that opens the divine to us. We take a chance on an intuitive nudge that invites us to visit or call so and so, and we discover it was an act of love so desperately needed. God is all around us, and we ask how can this be? Mary’s response, beyond the question, is equally important – “may it be according to your word”. We receive, we act curious, we find the myriad ways to say “yes” to God’s unexpected presence.
This Advent, we are invited to a noble art of God watching, of learning to listen and discern, of asking the God questions about our lives and the lives of our neighbors and neighborhood. Such questions include – how has God impacted our/their lives? In what ways do you notice God present or active in your neighborhood? Has God been bringing themes or insights that are beginning to “haunt” or linger with you in your reading, listening and study of Scripture? Is God bringing new energy around something you’ve been noticing – and is there a particular suffering or hurt you can stop seeing? How does God want you to respond? With whom could you share this? How might you join God in responding?
The premise is that just as God was already at work in the lives of the newly engaged couple, Mary and Joseph, when the people of their time wondered whether God would ever hear their prayers and save them. So, with us, and in our time, God continues to sow the seeds of divine deliverance. And in at work in a similarly unexpected way as God was in Mary.
When I am overwhelmed by the sights in Gaza, and by the perils within our increasingly fragile “Island home”, earth, and even by my own inability to be a person of hope even as a person of faith, I call out like blind Bartimaeus for the “Son of David to have mercy” and to give me sight – sight to see God at work. And it is in the small multiple details of human encounter that Jesus answers my call. “We want to see Jesus”, say the Greeks to Philip, and we want to see Him too, That’s an Advent passion. In it is the gift of sight, and light. And the unexpected gift of God’s appearing that is all around us waiting to be revealed.
Grace is a community of seers, or rather see-ers. The diocese of Kansas, with whom I also work these days, has a wonderful theme for their strategic mission – “Go, see and be seen!”. Their Bishop Cathleen Bascom says that we often talk about the importance of walking the talk, but sometimes she thinks that in our reticence to proclaim our good news, we need to learn how to talk the walk!
I love that. And I need to re-learn it. Will you let your eyes guide you to God’s active presence among you this Advent and beyond? And your ears help you define what God is doing in lives about you? And your mouth share it, name it out loud -which is always the way God brings new life.
-Bishop Alan Scarfe