Saturated

“I live to do your will”

“An angel went from God to a town called Nazareth to a woman, whose name was Mary.

Photo credit: Stock: girl from Nazareth, Palestine

The angel said to her, ‘Rejoice! O highly favored! For God is with you!Y ou shall bear a child and his name shall be Jesus: The chosen one of God most high.’ “And Mary said ,“Gabriel, um, I just don’tknow if this is the best time for me right now…I just started this new diet and work-out thing and it’s actually going really well. I’ve lost ten pounds in the last two months and I feel better than I ever have. So, you know…

“I just don’t think I’m feeling the whole being pregnant thing right now…Being pregnant is, like, well, um, hard. I’m not really into being fat, you know.

“Besides, I just started seeing this new shepherd guy–and, holy mother of pearl, he is, like, well he is like SO way cuter than Joseph, and he has this curly dark beard, (without any beard ornaments!), and he makes me laugh and not be so serious all the time, and he’s smart and he likes watching me play basketball, and, well, I’m really sorry but I just don’t think this is going to work.

“Um, and well, like, I haven’t told my parents yet but I’m not so sure about Joseph. I’m not into him at all.“I mean, he’s really OLD! Have you seen him? Seriously! And my parents set that up you know, and none of my friends are into doing that anymore. It’s just so, so, well, weird!

“So yeah, I appreciate your coming and all, Gabe, and you’re really nice and nothing against G-D or anything, seriously, I’m sort of flattered, but really. This is just not going to work for me now.“

And, I almost forgot! This. So, well, this is my junior year. I made varsity. That’s, like seriously a big deal. I have worked so hard to get to this point; how can I just walk away? Being pregnant isn’t exactly going to help me with basketball. I might get kicked off the team even if it doesn’t show right away. And my parents. Oh, shit, my mother will never believe me. A virgin birth? With all the guys who hang around me after school?Yeah, she’ll buy that:Um, no!

“No, I just don’t see this working into my life now. Maybe later. But, then: God? Emmanuel? Seriously. You are kidding about this right? Do you know me? Mary! Mary from 2nd Street. That Mary. Yeah, so, well, thanks for thinking of me. Thanks for popping in too; that was way cool! Can you do that again sometime,-- just to say hello?And I know you’ll find the right person.There are lots of us…So, yeah, well, bye for now. Wow, you’re an awesome dude! Nobody will believe this, but it’s been real. And now you need to go…! Ciao! I have a call… “

But in fact, Mary said: ‘I am the servant of my God; I live to do your will…’’

“I live to do your will.”

One can do far worse than experience the saturation of her spirit with that text for weeks on end, as I have all this month!

For about the fiftieth time this Advent, on every day since the season began November 30, I have read that text a few times. Again, today. And, best of all, I have listened to it sung. And sang along, of course.

Now, as we speed toward Emmanuel, toward Mary’s baby boy, driving through the arctic-we’re-definitely-not-in-Colorado-anymore-dusk of this late Saturday afternoon, before we stop driving across Nebraska, across utterlyinterminable I-80, pastSappBrothers and the Flying Fig (what I call it) truck stop,... and, just as it became so slow-going in an eerie winter fog, so bad we had to creep along, not seeing the tail lights before us, and just as we cross over the murky Missouri River, after a full day out on the straight and endless interstate, on the way to Christ, to the manger, the light! to a family celebration of Christmas in, of all places: Minneapolis-- which is about as far from Bethlehem as I can imagine! --save for the music, which is glorious, and, as the first billboards for casinos appeared on the Council Bluffs side, only then, finally, finally then, it occurs to me:

For the first time all month to notice the blunt conclusion: “The angel departed from her.” What would that angel have done if Mary had said, “Well…” (Annika provided me with a pretty convincing 16-year-old girl’s excuse, don’t you think?)

Would the angel have been so quick to simply “depart from her,”had Mary from 2nd Street talked back? Resisted? what if…What if it had not gone quite so easily. What if Mary had refused, said no, “find yourself another girl,” and walked off…Would the angel have stuck around to argue? A young girl like our familiar Mary of Nazareth, of two thousand years ago, had a lot going on at 15 or 16, not so unlike the young Nazarene girl in my picture (save for the basketball!). I can see Mary, just a girl really, light, laughing, perhaps more reflective than most, mature for her age but still, most likely very young, vulnerable yet strong, this girl who would come to depend upon the “Breath of heaven” to hold her together, a young woman, still a girl of her day, a young woman, like a girl of our day. And so I imagined her, even as I looked across the dinner table at my own young daughter, already years older than we suppose Jesus’ mother to have been. And she too seems so young. Oh my.

Called to become the mother of God. Oh my. I imagined… her decision. Mary’s. Her faith, her conviction. And I read on, to her vision of God’s promise, the world she sang of, the world her son, God’s son, would bring forth. I read, I sang along again with her song.

And was grateful. So so very grateful. For this: just this: “I live to do your will.” Mary said that. Mary has given me a voice this Advent, And a song. And a vision. Ever ancient, ever new: I am the servant of my God. I live to do your will.

As it is, these beautiful words from the Gospel of Luke have quite literally been my constant companion all throughout this season of Advent. A beautiful musical setting by MartyHaugen is beloved and so familiar that I dream it at night. I listen to it a dozen times a day.

“I am the servant of my God. I live to do your will…”This season has been one of “saturated living” for me: Advent. Saturated living. Saturated not in stuff but in expectation, in God’s promises, God’s vision. I cannot recommend it highly enough: Saturation.

As I had hoped, it is changing me. It has already changed me. I watched it happen; yet also, at the same time, behind my back, I couldn’t see it happening but saw later how it had found a toehold in my soul and prompted growth. I see the fruits come to life; And see the saturation infuse my life; if my skin were transparent, you might even see another color inside. I feel it happening, even as one can feel a refreshing glass of water go down;

I actually feel this saturation flood my spirit, and I can feel the tension as I feel it break in, and burst old barriers, old fears, old hurts, prejudice and presumption. It is SO cool! This saturation is breathing new life in my old soul. Flowing into my very life’s blood in startling, healing ways! Forgiveness. Reconciliation. The “fullness” that Brad Gauen wrote of in his devotion the other day. A miracle! And another!

Saturated living: being constantly encountered by this very message:“I live to do your will.” This is what Advent has looked like, (literally,) been like, felt like, for us: The house is beautifully, simply blue, the color of Advent. Only the olive wood crèche from Bethlehem we have had for thirty-plus years is out. No Christmas decorations. No tree. No Christmas music.

They come when Christmas comes, when Jesus comes. On Christmas Day. And they stay all through the Christmas season. The one that only begins on December 24 at twilight. And lasts until Epiphany (and, for us, even longer). For now, the manger is empty still. Waiting for birth. (Dave did put up lovely bright lights outside. They are a gift in the night, to remind us and the neighbors of the Light that is coming…)

(Note to parents: this doesn’t work while you have young ones!)

And this, for me, was the most important of all: music.

I made an Advent Playlist for my iPhone on the first morning of Advent. And every day I spend hours listening to the 140 songs that invite one into a spirit of repentance, openness, and eager longing for Jesus. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Prepare the Way, O Zion,” “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” “Savior of the Nations, Come!” “Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending,” (otherwise known around our house as, “Let ‘er Rip, Jesus!”) and of course, the ‘also-Advent songs,’ like Emmy Lou Harris’ “Prayer in Open D,” Bonnie Raitt singing, “Hear Me Lord,” and Leonard Cohen’s“Hallelujah.” I had to include the old South African hymn, “Freedom is Coming, “ and even the Jewish “Light One Candle,” and my mother-in-law’s favorite, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” “We Shall Overcome,” is God’s promise so it’s on the list. But the heart of it is “Mary’s  Song,” the Annunciation and Magnificat, from Luke’s Gospel. “An angel went from God…” These are the images, the vision, the promises of God in which I have been saturated this season. Longing. Hope. Pregnant expectation.

 As I have been saturated in this music, of Jesus, God-to-come, to-be-soon-with-us, this ethos, these images and visions of God’s promised future, of grace, of healing, wholeness, of justice, I have discovered that it works: it gives me courage and hope to respond, when a relevant question comes up:

“I am the servant of my God. I live to do your will.”

I learned this: with Mary, I am more likely to say “yes.” Yes, it is Advent, for one more day as you read this, Advent in my spirit, my soul, and even in our home. A basket, empty but ready to be filled up. A holy place, life just waiting to be transformed.Watching. Expecting. OPEN. Advent. So, that means:…

No Christmas.That is, seriously: NO CHRISTMAS. NOT CHRISTMAS. NOT AT OUR HOUSE. NOT IN MY LIFE. NOT YET.

I AM WAITING. WATCHING.  HOPING. AND OPEN.

In the saturation, the constancy, the focus, I have been pried open, again, anew:open to saying this: “I AM THE SERVANT OF MY GOD.” And far more open to doing this:“I LIVE TO DO YOUR WILL.” What does this look like? I don’tknow it all yet,--- ha! Hardly! It is a life’s journey and I’m only sixty, but : Living to do God’s will, so far, this year, this season, seems to be going along these lines. I have reconciled with two people who had been estranged from me for years; I have stepped out in faith a few times… to DO significant things, to risk and give and get exhausted. And scared. And live to tell about it.

Saturated Living. Living only in Advent for right now: Hoping.

It is a time of listening, of reading from Jesus and the prophets to learn just how this birth we celebrate only a day from now: on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is God’s promise for ALL people! ALL of them! Oh mercy! God’s enormous act to change the world.

God’s intent to set all things on “tilt”by entering it – as one of us by entering into us and giving us power to do as he did:

Tilt    Tilt    Tilt

“he has cast the mighty down from their thrones,And uplifted the humble of heart;He filled the hungry with wondrous things,even while heLeft the wealthy no part…"

Tilt    Tilt    Tilt

And if Luke’sdescription is to be trusted, andMary’sMagnificat visionis indeed God’svision for the creation,then:that young woman who said yes,who was the first to sing of the astonishing uplift on the planet,--like the tilted stones at Roxborough --like the rising of mountains,then she and all of the rest of us are in for more:

Tilt.    Tilt.    Tilt.

After the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel,we are on permanent tilt:The world, the whole creation, And especially we sentient beings within it, are NEW. The old is passed away, and all things are new. New!

A world we wouldn’t recognize if it materialized tomorrow, truth be told. A promised reality where the one God was, the self God sent to be with us, was rejected by many, who couldn’t quite believe, or accept him. As Jesus comes, and comes indeed to us, is born again in us, the whole creation is about to be tilted in the direction of justice, of mercy, kindness, gracious generosity, and if God is again (and always) coming to live in our lives, our power structures, our personal and intimate affairs, I want to be prepared.

“Then the angel departed from her.”

Luke is so matter of fact as he writes.This, that, this, that. Straightforward, clear.‘This is happening.’ Mary says, ‘yes, sure, I’min! “And so the angel moves on.

We pray together: “O, Jesus, Savior of the nations come! Stir up your power, O God of joy and gladness, And come. Even to me, that I may always be open.To your call. To bear your creating and redeeming life To all the world. I am the servant of my God; I live to do your will. Be it done for me according to your word. Amen. “

Jan Erickson Pearson

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