December 22, 2010

from Jan Ord Harris

Advent began on Sunday, November 28, and with it begins a new church year. It's always a time when I want to simply sink into quiet reflection on the meaning of the coming of the Christ as a tiny baby.

It's a time of waiting -- waiting for the celebration, waiting for the wonder of new life, waiting for the first glimpse of our own personal salvation from our sin -- and waiting can be a time of anxiety, anticipation, or awe. We have a choice to make. And as I enter into this time every year, as the sacramental colors in the church change from green to purple -- the color of the sky just before the dawn, and the color of royalty -- I'm always drawn to the incredible journey that Mary took as she awaited the birth of the mysterious person who had entered her life in such an unexpected way.

A baby is always a mystery to us, especially during those months of waiting for birth. Even as the child grows, the mystery of who this person is is still with us. But reflecting on Mary's dilemma is a great challenge. We simply cannot imagine what she "pondered in her heart" as she waited. Nevertheless it behooves us to take some time each day in our faith discipline to consider the amazing love of God that triggered the gift sent to the world through Mary. I can't say it better than does Thomas Merton, in his poem entitled: The Holy Child's Song. Please read it and ponder in your hearts the wonder of the Incarnation as we begin to celebrate this season.

When midnight occupied the porches of the Poet's reason
Sweeter than any bird
He heard the Holy Child.

"When My kind Father, kinder than the sun,
With looks and smiles bends down
And utters My bodily life,
My flesh, obeying, praises Heaven like a smiling cloud.
Then I become the laughter of the watercourses.
I am the gay wheat fields, the serious hills:
I fill the sky with words of light, and My incarnate songs
Fly in and out the branches of My childish voice
Like thrushes in a tree.

And when My Mother, pretty as a church,
Takes Me upon her lap, I laugh with love,
Loving to live in her flesh, which is My house-and full of light!
(Because the sky My Spirit enters in at all the windows)
O, then what songs and what incarnate joys
Dance in the brightest rays of My childish voice!

In winter when the birds put down their flutes
And wind plays sharper than a fife upon the icy rain,
I sit in this crib,
And laugh like fire, and clap My golden hands:
To view my friends the timid beasts --
Their great brown flanks, muzzles and milky breath!

Therefore come, shepherds, from your rocky hill,
And bend about My crib in wonder and adore My joy.
My glances are as good as wine.
The little rivers of My smile
Will wash away all ruins from your eyes,
As I lift up My hands,
As white as blackthorn blossoms,
And charm and kiss you with My seven sacraments.

This seeming winter is your spring
When skies put off their armor:
Because My Heart already holds
The secret mortal wound,
By which I shall transform all deserts into garden-ground:
And there the peaceful trees,
All day say credos, being full of leaves --
And I will come and be your noon-day sun,
And make your shadows palaces of moving light:
And you will show Me your flowers."

When the midnight occupied the porches of the Poet's reason
Sweeter than any bird
He heard the Holy Child.

Written by Thomas Merton in 1944.Quoted from A Merton Reader edited by Thomas P. McDonnell, published by Image, and imprint of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, 1974.

As the darkest night comes to us here in the northern hemisphere, and then the light begins to return, let all the world (even places where it's the longest day, instead of the shortest) rejoice! For "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" and that is good news for us all.

Ah, but the good news continues: the One who came to dwell among us as a tiny child has come to dwell in us in the holy temple of each of his people. The incarnation spreads till the world is filled with God's love and peace through the Body of Christ.

May you find time during Advent to glimpse all that a loving God has in store for you, may your Christmas be a time of joy, and may the New Year bring you peace and wellbeing.