This is a meditation I read at the reflective service for Advent we had in St Mary’s on Tuesday. It was a good night. Darkness and candles. Prayers and Singing. And the lovely bellringers pealing out good news into the night at just the right moment. Complete serendipity.
Advent is a time of waiting. Of darkness and light.
Historically, Advent has been understood as a time to contemplate the last things – eschatology and our own mortality. But tonight I want to attend to another movement. Rather than mortality, let us consider our natality. Our birth.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt asks us to consider our role in creation. Our role is natality – we are all born. We are all someone’s child. And this attention to birth brings us to our creativity – our ability to begin anew. To begin again.
Tonight we hear the story of how God’s love – symbolized by this candlelight – is passed on, from person to person, from generation to generation. There is much of creativity here. Much of beginning. Beginning again.
And so we turn to Mary. I believe that in this reading Mary teaches us – as she so often does – how to respond to this season of Advent. She ponders. She is perplexed and she ponders.
(Well, as a phd student, I can safely say that I am often perplexed. But I think I ponder less than I might. Less than I wish too. )
Perhaps pondering with Mary, is a good way to consider this time of waiting, of preparation. What are we waiting for? The coming of God. And how does God come to us? In this season we prepare for the Incarnation, for the birth of Jesus. Yes. A birth. And one way to prepare for this birth is to consider our own. To consider all the times we begin again. All the times we respond with creativity. And ponder what that creative movement might mean for us right now.
It is not only we who are born – the world is also born, as we have just celebrated in the great exclamation – ‘let there be life, let there be light’. The kingdom of God is born. And how might we share in the coming of the kingdom? How might we share in the preparation for this birth?
The angel said to Mary that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. What might it mean for us to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit? To be in the Spirit’s Shadow?
Perhaps one way to understand this mysterious overshadowing is to consider the Holy Spirit as a midwife – brooding over the chaos of creation, bringing our new beginnings into the world, brooding over the Incarnation, and the coming of the Kingdom.
Are we called to share with the Holy Spirit, to be midwives of this new birth? Midwives of the kingdom? Or perhaps it is ourselves that are being eased, called, yanked if need be, by this brooding midwife into the new world of a birth, of a new beginning?
Overshadowed by the Spirit.
Before we continue to pass on the light – let us pause for a moment in the dim candlelight, and ponder the shadow of the Holy Spirit.