3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge — 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. -1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Zechariah has been given nine months of silence; Elizabeth has been given nine months of first-time maternal preparation; and their community has been given nine months to wonder at the miracle of John the Baptist's conception.
What to do with nine months?
I know I'd love to have nine months of preparation time. I'd love to have an angel announce some big news about my future, if I'm honest, but the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim. Still, nine months of "—–" (anything's possible) sounds pretty good right now.
For anyone who knows me, that's unusual for me to admit. NormallyI cringe at vacation time or any kind of time off. It disrupts my routine; I get bored easily; I don't have money to travel anywhere at any time; and I much prefer busy work than down time.
Retreat? Ha! No way! Not for me!
But in the past few years, I've been feeling the need for a change of pace. My system can't keep up with myself. Sitting here in my little office at the food bank, I'm also sensing more keenly the high emotions of people that come with the season. Everything from grief and loss, to financial anxiety, to deep sadness, to anger and malice, to depression. Rarely are there periods of joy or celebration when people come in asking for hampers. Sure, lots of polite "Merry Christmas!" greetings, but the weight of the world rests on everyone's shoulders, including mine. It's hard not to shut out everyone's stories.
There are a lot of unanswered prayers.
Yet here, with a huge answered prayer, and the gift of time to learn to accept it and love it, what now?
What do we do? How do we pass the time?
"Inherent in the concept of liturgy is that we habituate ourselves in practices that shape our lives toward God. Every Sunday we enact a liturgy specific to our faith tradition. Each part of the liturgy reminds us of some truth about what it means to be in covenant with God. The hymns we sing, our words of confession, our offerings, our prayers, and several other liturgical aspects reveal aspects of God's covenant relationship to us as individuals and as a community. We can learn to wait faithfully and to dwell in God's strength by creating daily liturgies that shape our lives around God." (Okoro, pp.49-50).
In short: we get on with the business of life and worship.
I want to be clear here, Henri: anxiety and doubt are still present, remember? Zechariah is given a full nine months to heal from his doubts and grief. Okoro isn't saying that once we receive such incredible words, we start fluffing around in false joy.
This time is given us not just to embrace the astounding good news of it all, but to be honest about the darkness that demanded the good news to begin with. We can tangibly do that by continuing to practice our whispers, written words, songs, passings of peace… even in times of shifting faith when we aren't sure about God at all. Genuine worship comes in all forms and shapes.
It was a difficult week to wade through the first part of Advent in doubt and anxiety. To be honest, Henri, I was wondering how we were going to segue into the happy part. Okoro hasn't woven the happy with the sad, but rather the amazing with the doubting. I'm not sensing a false happiness or a continued unnecessary doubt. There is both together in a crazy miasma of something as yet unnamed.
The naming, we know, comes a bit later.
Until tomorrow, Henri,