Second Sunday of Advent
Mary was vulnerable. Pregnancy is a vulnerable time physically and emotionally as Mary looks inward to care for another inside her own skin. She was vulnerable to the likely judgement and unkind reactions of people around her. She said yes.
We are also vulnerable. To hope is vulnerable. To love is vulnerable. Maybe this is why Jesus came in person as Emanuel, God with us. Perhaps we need to know, in all our moments of vulnerability that Jesus felt all these human feelings too. Jesus walked through one vulnerable experience after another, like us.
I recently sat praying in our nearest church. Inside, the altar piece shows Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He looks clearly distraught. His disciples are shown sleeping nearby, and the guards are approaching in the background. I was thinking to myself – I don’t think I’ve ever seen an altar piece anywhere else that depicts this moment -- Jesus’ greatest moment of weakness. I decided to ask what Jesus thought of it. “Jesus, how does it make you feel that they chose to highlight your moment of greatest weakness?” I didn’t know if I would get any answer, but quite quickly, I sensed a big shrug. I sensed Jesus say to me, “I’m human. I acted human in that moment.” I had a strong sense of peace. That Jesus is not in any way ashamed that he cried out to God the Father and said, essentially: I can’t do this, please don’t ask me to do this.
Can we shrug, too? I wonder how we might feel if we could bring our desperation unashamedly to God our loving parent the way Jesus did. I wonder if we could find more comfort, groundedness and eventual peace if we acknowledge that we are human and we fall apart. We encounter things that we can’t face.
I suspect that Jesus knew, in his wisdom and divinity, that his prayer of desperation wouldn’t be answered. He expressed it anyway. I imagine he cried out because that is simply where he was in that moment.
I have found in some of my hardest moments that if I can be honest and stay present to my situation and to my honest feelings about it, then I am more likely to encounter God’s presence. God is here, in honest reality. Not in should or tomorrow. Emanuel is here.
If today, I’m feeling some powerfully heavy emotions – anger, sadness, fear, desperation…then that is where God is. I can find God here.
What are you feeling? Can you pause and just be? And ask Emanuel, God with us to be with you in your present? Practice seeing yourself as simply human and therefore allowed to feel the whole range of human emotions without shame.
Second Monday of Advent:
How does it make you feel to imagine that Jesus might not be at all uncomfortable with his desperate cries and with us looking at them? What would you do differently this week if you were more comfortable with your own? Maybe you can forgive yourself for something in the past. Maybe you can embrace something today.
Second Tuesday of Advent:
Jesus was vulnerable at the end of his life and also at the beginning. Imagine sitting with Mary and baby Jesus and noticing how vulnerable they are. Take time to breathe in the smell of hay from the manger and place your hand on baby Jesus. Notice that you are not alone in your own vulnerability.
Second Wednesday of Advent:
Perhaps you are feeling tired of thinking about desperation. Think of some good news in your life. Imagine that you bring some hot tea and cake to Mary and Joseph and you sit with them and baby Jesus and tell them your good news. How does it feel just to be near Jesus?
Second Thursday of Advent:
Imagine the vulnerability of the little family needing to flee to Egypt. Imagine that you go with them to help them get settled. How are they feeling? What will they miss of home? What do you have to offer them as you help them get set up in their temporary home?
Second Friday of Advent:
Have you ever felt homeless or brand new in a place? Does the vulnerability of Jesus bring anything to that memory? He often had to move along because his life was in danger. So many around the world know what that feels like. What do you notice when you ponder Jesus sharing that experience?