Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent Waiting

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of  the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because  Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years (Luke 1:5-7, ESV).

Where do you see yourself in the Christmas stories, if you recognize yourself there at all? Mary's costly, daring "yes"? Joseph's long obedience? The magi's seeking? The marginalized shepherds' rejoicing? Bonnie of Faith Barista asked this, and it took long pondering before I could say, Elizabeth. But not perhaps the part of Elizabeth's story we emphasize. Elizabeth between Luke 1:5 and Luke 1:6. The waiting Elizabeth, before the angel appears and Zechariah stops talking for nine months. Before the maternity clothes and gossip spreading through her town. Before she could say, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:25, ESV).

In significant ways, December 2013 for me greatly resembles December 2012. Several of the big, hard, God-sized challenges remain visibly unchanged. Sometimes it feels like our prayers have expired or fallen on deaf ears, and we must cast ourselves on the truth of God's Word that they have not. (Feelings make fine thermometers but lousy thermostats.) Sometimes apparently unanswered prayers are just waiting. Waiting like Elizabeth until the "fullness of time had come" (Gal. 4:4).

In the waiting, as I'm often feeling like the "before" Elizabeth, I'm remembering this imagined peek at the "after" Elizabeth. Perhaps it would encourage one or two of you who find yourselves with me in the waiting room.

An angel's good news beggars the priest's belief

A seed of joy, sown by an expired prayer,
Takes root in his aged bride's shriveled womb,
Flutters, kicks new life into dead hopes.
Fruit of the promise swells, burgeons,
Tautens the walls of empty longing
With outlandish hope.

God sends a son called Grace*--
A son for Elisabeth--
Grace for her disgrace,
Favor for her shame,
Joy for her sorrow,
But grace upon grace:

Her Grace-child jumps for joy,
Joy dancing in her barren places.
Mute joy-leaps hail the Author of joy,
And the mother of Grace meets the mother of her Lord.
Grace rejoices in the coming
Of the Grace-giver Himself,
As near and as far
As the embrace of two unexpectedly expectant mothers
(One too soon, one too late, both in good time)
Rejoicing together in good news
Of the promise coming,
So near they can feel it kick.

*The name "John" is a variant of the Hebrew for "Yahweh is gracious."

Sharing belatedly with Bonnie and early with Laura. Thank you for your prayers. I think I'm on the mend, thanks to antibiotics and time, but my participation in church this Christmas week remains in question. Thank you for understanding the quiet here.


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