Advent Annunciation

The virgin will become pregnant.

That’s the beautiful part of the spiritual journey that we’re honoring this week in ALL of us.

We, too, can look forward to birthing our own divinity, like Mary did.

For some, this birth narrative, poorly interpreted for them as adults, has invited them at some point in their faith development to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” when it comes to church.

“What?!” they say. “You expect me to believe WHAT about this woman’s pregnancy? Well, if that’s what you mean by the Mystery of God, count me out.”

And they walk away from the incredible Awe and Wonder that perhaps once nurtured them in the church. Rachel Held Evans, author of the book Inspired, says, “The Bible is meant to be a conversation starter, not a conversation ender.” This week’s Advent message is about keeping the dialogue going by understanding the deeper meanings in the text.

All of us, regardless of sex, age, or ability, can be spiritual “virgins” like Mary in that we can practice detaching ourselves from finding our identity in anything but God. We can step around the unimportant distractions in life, choose to create regular Sabbath time for our souls to intentionally feel held in God each day, make hard choices to live with increasing integrity, live close in relationship with creation and our fellow human beings, regardless of our differences.

Like Mary, we can regularly begin our days with eyes and ears and hearts open for where we might be surprised by an invitation to live by trusting the Spirit more with the outcomes of our hard work and effort—more than trusting in our own savvy and skill.

Like Mary, we can live with an open receptivity to Life and Love as often as we remember to.

In this perspective of a “virgin” being one, who, like a virgin forest, is defined more by one’s fecundity in God than by their chastity in sex, the virgin is one whom God makes fruitful ( however that fruitfulness may be expressed) without human aid. Author John Shea says that this is symbolically expressed by saying that the virgin is also a mother.

But in this second week in Advent, Mary is not yet a mother. She is still waiting in her active longing and hunger for God, just like us. Reminding us that we, too, are called to be Marys in our own unique ways within the heart of God in the world.

I’ll leave you with this little story by Anthony de Mello about why we bother with the active (not passive) waiting of Advent. The story is a little conversation between a student disciple and her master (found in John Shea’s book, Starlight).

“Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?”

“As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”

“Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe to me that help me develop obedience, openness, trust, and perseverance in God?”

“They make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”

Friends, may God grant that we are not asleep when the sun begins to rise—when the angel of God arrives at the door of our hearts like Gabriel did at Mary’s.

May your pre-dawn hours in the darkness of waiting this week be fecund and ripe in fertility.

Amen.

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