Advents present, past, and yet to come

My friend Joann Haejong Lee and her husband Mike Tsoi are expecting their first baby in January. On December 15, 2013, Joann preached at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting” had Luke 1:39-56 for the text. It’s the story of two very different pregnancies. It could be no other, for each pregnancy is unique. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah have waited long to have a child. Late in life comes the news that they will have a child. Mary, an unwed teenager, also receives the news that she too will bear a child.

Looking at these pregnant, expectant  women, as a pregnant, expectant woman, Joann crafts a sermon well worth reading. Check it out. Don’t just take my word. Here are some of Joann’s insights and images to whet your interest:

I’m certainly familiar with the whole gamut of emotions and mild waves of panic that inevitably wash over expectant parents, making us wonder, “Can any of us ever really be ready to be stewards of another human life?”

Joann notes that Mary took the news of her pregnancy reasonably well. And then she left town, going to her kinswoman Elizabeth in haste: “she ran as fast as her first-trimester body would allow, seeking out her cousin Elizabeth, who she’s heard is also pregnant.”

In the midst of Mary’s uncertainty and fear, Elizabeth’s response draws her in, envelopes her in blessing and joy, not in judgment or shame, accepting her and her situation, even blessing her, rejoicing with her.

We need more people like Elizabeth in this world.  People who are willing to move past judgment and shame to offer God’s blessing.  People who look at the world and see God’s redeeming work at hand, rather than seeing the worst in others and themselves.

We need people like Elizabeth who can move us from a place of fear to a place of hope and singing.  We need people like Elizabeth.  People who see us, and can spot the expectant Christ child that longs to be born in us and in our lives.

Reflecting on Advents past and Advents yet to come, Joann refers to Advent 2012 when she and Mike had recently lost their first pregnancy to a miscarriage.  She considers her grandmother’s last Advent season. She notes that:

We are all bearers of God to this world, and this season of Advent is a time to remember that we are all called to be expectant, to be waiting and making preparations for Emmanuel, God with us.  And we need this time of Advent, to prepare and make way, for what awaits us on the other side is completely and utterly life-changing.

At the heart of waiting and expectancy exemplified by Elizabeth and Mary, is Mary’s song. The Magnificant.

Mary’s song is a radical one.  It is a song of hope birthed in a time of hopelessness and a song of joy birthed in a time of uncertainty.

It is into this time that Mary sings, sings and dreams of a different kind of world.  And through her song, she not only names those promises of God, but is able to enter into them.

Joann closes by considering the risk and promise of expectation and expectant waiting.

There is risk, however, in that time of expectation and there is risk in birth. We cannot live lives of complacency and comfort and expect new life to come.  We must take a dangerous journey, even as we are expectant, and we must boldly sing and live transformation.

Because our Advent preparation and waiting is not just for the birth of a child, but for the birth of a whole new way of life.

In this season of Advent, may we prepare our hearts and homes to be ready for Love to be born among and within us.  Let us be expectant, and allow hope to take root in us, so that come Christmas, we may know how to nurture it and grow it, so that it may blossom and flourish in our lives and in our world.

There’s a lot more. And it is good. But this gets the basics – may we prepare, may we expect so God’s love might blossom and flourish in us and in God’s world. Amen.

Check out What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

See you along the Trail.

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