We have come to a resting place.
Our journey started in hope as we took our first steps towards the Kingdom of Heaven. We remembered that the Kingdom lives here, in our future and includes everyone; those who suffer as well as those who live in relative comfort. This hope had a chance to grow as we realised that we walk in company, nourished by our community with each other and God through Jesus. Talk of being involved in preparations for the synod next year suggests an exciting time ahead with completely new opportunities to help build the kingdom through the work of the church. But we are now approaching Christmas, and the great feasts of the church bring all ongoing projects to a halt.
All the readings and prayers of the liturgy for Advent are about preparation for a great visitor. Often when an important visitor is expected there is a great cleaning and tidying up of the house, but that is not the preparation that is suggested here. Sometimes when a beloved visitor comes we are distracted by a felt need to prepare a beautiful meal; definitely not the way to go. When a baby is expected we may spend huge amounts of money doing up the nursery and buying clothes and equipment for the little one, wrong again! We need to prepare ourselves for this coming. We must run towards Christ, rejoice in prophecies about to be fulfilled, let no earthly project get in the way, be happy!
At the Annunciation, Mary said, “How shall this be done?” and we may well ask the same question. Her problem was that she was separated from the world by virginity; ours is that we are buried in it. How can we possibly rise above the clamour of shops, the search for presents, excited children and anxieties about infection, not to mention real concerns for all those people around us who are unhappy, frightened, ill, and lonely? The answer is the same:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow”
Yes! These words apply to us too. If we have prepared ourselves, as Mary did, to concern ourselves with the will of God above all else, then the tiniest prayer sent heavenwards will get answer. If, out of the midst of the noise and bustle we say, not ‘please help me to do this’, ‘but what might you want me to do here?’ answer will come. That tiny babe in the manger at Bethlehem was in no position to do anything about the redemption of the world, but he grew up, in strength and wisdom, guided by his parents. We all need to learn patience, and respect for all the other people around us who can add to what we do. A small, and apparently useless gesture now may grow, with the help of others, to be significant much later.
What does it mean to be ‘overshadowed’? It sounds a bit dull and chilly, like so much of our weather at present. It could also be comforting, like a warm blanket or umbrella. I think it happens when God puts a gentle hand on your shoulder and says: “Leave this one to me, I’ll sort it”. It’s like firework night when we are told to stand well back while someone lights the touch paper. We wait with bated breath for the show to start.