Lingers in the Shadows

Luke 1:26-38 – 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 18, 2011

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God…” (Luke 1:26)

Visiting the old man had been easier.

Maybe it was because The Messenger chose a sanctuary for the encounter. The whole world is holy, but still, with the silence and candles, the sacred space enhanced the announcement he prepared for Zechariah.

Advent’s Fourth Word: ANGEL

There’s this, too: maybe Zechariah—honestly humble and intentionally kind by all accounts—felt he deserved a break. Thought God should do a deed or two for him. Yes, The Messenger mused, the old man was easy. Not once in the sanctuary conversation did he have to consult his notes or raise his voice or make an unnecessary promise. And it didn’t surprise The Messenger when Elizabeth’s elderly husband couldn’t mutter a word afterwards. Awe can do that. The Messenger had seen it before with humans—the stupor, the incoherent explanations, the babbling about a dream.

Wings of desire...

And yet now this: this girl, this woman. Mary is both and neither. He studies her from the shadows; he is alert, prepared and he never hesitated when told he would be her witness. It’s his job, after all. He’s done it before, and hopes he’ll continue the work for a long time. The Messenger relishes playing the muse, the voice, the dream, the whisper, the unexpected idea, the rush of wind, the stillness of night, the surge of adrenalin, the calm of conviction, the best hope and last chance.

He didn’t ask why her or why now. Well above his pay grade, thank you very much.

Still he lingers in the shadows, leaning against the wall, almost as if hiding. As if he’s more afraid and less confident. This surprises him. Continue reading →

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Am I Not Entering Holy Ground?

Did my red socks display jolly Santas, lush Christmas trees or singing angels?

I don’t remember. I’ve worn and worn out many festive socks over the years.

Toes are getting a bit thin from these "veteran" socks!

Advent’s Third Word: WITNESS!

But I recall the snow, my December breath adrift like a miniature cloud, the long tramp from the driveway to their house. An hour or so outside of Madison, Wisconsin, the brittle night air contains the smell of cattle from the barn as my footsteps crunch on the icy path leading to the front door.

I also don’t remember who answered. His teenaged daughter? His wife? His brother from the next farm over?

“I’m Larry,” I say. “I had called and asked–”

“Yes, of course, come inside before you freeze. We’re glad you came.”

I entered a home I’d never been to before, and shook the hand of a stranger. In my faulty memory I can’t be sure if the friendly hand grasping mine was the daughter, wife or brother, but I certainly felt welcomed. Other family members voiced their greetings. An unseen Christmas tree cast splinters of red and green light against the wall. Evidence of baking, maybe cookies, teased my nose.

Someone offered to take my coat. Then, after a cleared throat, one of my greeters quietly asked, “Could you take your shoes off?”

They gestured toward the entryway floor. Work boots, clogs, running shoes and other footwear rested on a throw rug. I shrugged off my shoes and added them to the mix. Especially in a Midwest winter, a season of mud and snow and ice, this wasn’t unusual. Removing shoes helped in the battle for a clean house.

With my Advent/Christmas socks obvious, I padded into the living room, accompanied by members of the family. Everyone glanced at my feet, at those Santas or singing angels prancing against a bright red background. A Christmas tree anchored a corner, across from the fireplace. There was a sofa, several chairs and a hospital bed.

His wife said to me, eyes unblinking, voice strong, “This is John. He’s so looking forward to meeting you.” Continue reading →

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We’re Never Ready

Mark 1:1-8 – The 2nd Sunday of Advent – for December 4, 2011

“‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…’” (Mark 1:3)

When I write the opening sentence of these musings, I’m about four mouse clicks away from a file on my hard drive labeled Backpacking. There, I could find a list of 90+ items essential for a multiday hike. It’s a checklist, with gear like liner socks, tent stakes and water filter. I know where all the 90+ objects are stashed for easy access.

Let’s say you called right now and lured me with, “Let’s go for a three-day hike along California’s Lost Coast*. But we have to leave tomorrow morning, crack of dawn.”

My reply: “Who’s driving?” I’m ready to rumble. I’m . . .

Prepared.

Advent’s Second Word: PREPARE!

*     *     *

An examination of my legs would find miniscule scars and smooth divots encircling both kneecaps. On four occasions I’ve been wheeled into an operating “theater” to snip and reshape a torn meniscus. Arthroscopic surgery is relatively simple, using precise, minimally invasive tools to repair damage. At each procedure I observed machines ready to monitor my status, the coolness of the room, snippets of dialog between the surgeon and nurses. Before drifting into unconsciousness, I sensed their readiness. They were . . .

Prepared.

*     *     *

4 5-oz pieces of salmon
2 scallions
14-oz can of chopped tomatoes
Lemons
Thyme

Okay, fine, I borrowed this from Ms. De Laurentiis’ website to hope a few more extra web visitors would read about Advent.

I took that list (and more) on a supermarket excursion for a recent meal. Giada De Laurentiis’ “Salmon Baked in Foil” was on my mind and soon to be on the table, along with rice pilaf and sautéed kale. Sometimes I “hunt” for groceries without much of a list, but when I’m planning a nice meal for friends I like to be on thyme and . . .

Prepared.

 *     *     *

The second Sunday of Advent whispers, “Prepare!”

Actually, it seems to shout the word. Isaiah—deutero or second Isaiah for you Biblical scholarly types—declared the importance of preparing the way of the Lord, “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah wasn’t talking about an asphalt ribbon slicing through Death Valley’s harsh landscape for a weekend retreat in the desert. Instead, Mr. Isaiah, as familiar with a real desert as he likely was, demanded believers to prepare their weary souls for hope, good tidings, God’s guidance . . . even when everything around the Israelites seemed as bleak as, well, a desert. Continue reading →

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