Advent: Remembering the Ways of God

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you, 
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
 who remember your ways.” 
Isaiah 64:1, 4-5 
Reading for the first Sunday in Advent 

The prophet’s cry echoes down through the centuries, 
right into the middle of my central California lifestyle.
Each and every Advent, sometimes multiple times during these four weeks, 
I find my spirit singing Isaiah’s words of praise and longing. 
And I stretch my mind to do what he asks:
to remember the ways of God.
To remember that the ways of God are not our ways.
To remember that the ways of God are small and surprising
more often than large and predictable.
To remember that rending the heavens will be saved for another Advent, 
one for which we still wait.
So as Advent begins to unfurl each year, I remember.
I remember the ways of God.
The small and hidden,
quiet and secretive ways of our great God,
King of the Universe,
who entered the Virgin’s womb
to become as one with us.

Out of the chaos, order.
Out of the darkness, light.
Out of death, life.
And then, in stunning reverse:
out of the glistening, glorious starry heights
into the dark and murky fluids,
the blood and the water,
the reliance upon another for nurture and nourishment,
the vulnerable, tender uncertainty of the human condition.

And I remember the ways we have seen the Baby in our midst,
in our vulnerable, tender and uncertain condition.
I remember the ways we have found the small,
the hidden,
the quiet;
the unnoticeable notices
of Emmanuel, God with us.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel…”

 I sing a verse of remembering for each of these
splendid small stories:
marrying my hero one week before Christmas 
and buying our very first tree for 50 cents on Christmas Eve, 
 a tiny thing, scrawny and misshapen 
 but so beautiful to us;

standing in the starlight on a moonless Advent night in Zambia one year later, marveling that our families were
celebrating the same Infant Savior 14,000 miles 
around the world from us; 

carrying our second baby, birthing her in December, wondering if Mary felt as overwhelmed with the wonder and beauty of it all;

being gripped with fear as our youngest entered the hospital in Advent, 
a tiny invasive bacteria literally eating his heel bone; 
then bringing him home on Christmas Eve, 
rejoicing in the goodness of God and the gift of antibiotics;

joyfully displaying an increasing supply of home-grown Advent art as our family grew up; gently saying ‘thank-you’ for each of our children as the paper became more and more tattered over the years;

learning about Lucia at our Swedish church, each of our daughters taking her turn to wear the crown of candles, ushering in the Light of the World 

on the shortest, darkest day of the year;

absorbing the wonders of the liturgical year at mid-life,

forming a home-grown wreath 
and lighting the candles each week;

creating Advent worship experiences with a team of talented musicians/dramatists/graphic artists, each one offering their gifts in thanksgiving and praise;

preaching my very first sermon on the 2nd Sunday of Advent in 1990, and just before I began, being gently told that the husband of a dear friend had died the night before, underscoring for me the smallness of all human endeavor in the face of eternity – a great place for a preacher to be;


offering the body and the blood to the community of faith every Advent for 17 years, each time amazed and overwhelmed at the power of such simple things: 
bread and wine – 
the whole world contained in ordinary fruits of the soil:
dusty gifts for dusty people. 

“O come, O come, Emmanuel…” 

Life is filled with such splendid, small stories.
And every year, I ask for eyes to see,
for a voice to tell,
and a heart to remember
the ways of God at work in the world,
at work in my everyday,
oh-so-messy yet glorious world.
“May Jesus Christ be praised.”

Responding to Charity Singleton’s kind invitation to join The High Calling Community in sharing Advent reflections. (http://charitysingleton.blogspot.com/2011/11/week-1-day-2-advent-writing-project.html) This one is more general in scope than might have been asked for, but this is where I am in life – looking backward a lot, with deep thanksgiving for growth along the way. Tiny shoots of hope and life here and there, reminding me of God’s faithfulness in the everyday.






 

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Comments

  1. Diana: This is beautiful – thank you for sharing. It minsters to me greatly!

    Donna

  2. Oh, Diana, this is a perfect Advent reflection. I love the memories you share…so precious and I feel honored to receive them.

    To answer your wonderings over at the HIgh Calling, my husband’s is a music ministry. He is the Praise Band Leader at our church. You can imagine that the introduction of a Contemporary Service was part of the root of much of the conflict at our church. I had been a member for 13 years, and loved these people as my family. But Jeff was a new Christian…and they were very cruel to him. God is good and his faith stayed strong. Things are better but still not healed. Time does an amazing job of closing wounds. And love. It works wonders.

    But thank you for your thoughts, here and over at THC.

    Love to you this Advent season.

  3. Oh, Diana, this reads like a Psalm, like a glorious symphony in awe of God and in praise to Him. Surely you have honored Him. Thank you for letting me be a spectator in your worship service.

    Linda

  4. Oh, Diana. This was like a sweet California breeze this morning. I love your personal reflections. And I would be honored to take Communion from your hand.

  5. Diana, this is fantastic…I am so glad I (just) found your blog. I join Megan in saying I would be honored to take communion from your hand. Blessings~~~

  6. I was so touched and challenged by this post of remembering at the season of Advent. I found myself stopping in places to reflect and offer Thanksgiving. Thank you for generously sharing your own Advent stories with the hopes that we would connect with them too, and remember our own. O come, O come, Emmanuel! God is with us, God is with us.

  7. Diana, thank you for this.

    The things that come to us during this season of waiting, of preparing….it’s breathtaking.

    My grandfather was born on 12/23 (1913). We always made it a point to have a separate and specific birthday celebration for him, rather than rolling it into Christmas festivities. I miss those parties.

  8. These are beautiful Advent memories.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  9. Beautiful, Diana. And right there, amidst all of it, the thread of God weaves through.

    Love to you this Advent season.

    (He is coming!)

  10. No words. Absolutely no words. Just awe. And tears.

    Come…and remember His ways.

  11. Diana – I am just amazed at how the story of your life has woven so intricately with the story of waiting on a Savior. So much real life waiting right in the middle of the ceremonial waiting. I love the poetic style of this post, too, and want you to know that the High Calling Advent Writing Project just wouldn’t have been the same without these beautiful, pensive thoughts. (Sorry it took me a few days to get over here to leave a comment!)

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