Patrick is back in town and that means less time traipsing about solo and less time writing and less time sleeping and definitely more time smiling and laughing and feeling loved in this city. I don’t resent the trade off, but it makes keeping a consistent schedule a little difficult. It’s a good thing I love smiling and laughing and feeling loved.
And it’s a good thing that winter weight is not forever. I mean the cushion that forms from gingersnaps and pumpkin bread and sweet potato casserole, but I also mean the heaviness we drag around as we rush from event to party to celebration to gift exchange. Bake the cookies, make the cards, sing the songs, and tote the midnight-baked sweet potato casserole around on subways and to offices (where it rested while we ribbon cutted and grand ceremonied) and then finally to the party where I put it in the oven for the third time.
That was the day when I felt the holiday heaviest this week. I changed my shoes for the fourth time in a little cafe on a slushy street and the barista heard more than is New York appropriate – about my day and my work and my crazy New York life.
But I’m not special – everyone has a crazy life here.
Anyway… Before I changed shoes in that little cafe, I read the advent devotional for the day. It happened to be a reflection on Luke 1:38 and it happened to hit exactly where all my winter weight had settled.
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
I was reading with a tangled hot mess of a heart – tired and frustrated and ready to be done being a trooper. In the middle of my heart’s tangled hot mess, I heard the kind of words that don’t change with winter.
Her virgin womb; her predictable life; her settled next steps—no longer hers to hold. Maybe this would shake her?? Surely, there would be a crack in the commitment, in the promises, in the certainty, in the simplistic claim to be a follower—no, not merely a follower—but a bondslave, of the Most High. This servitude is going too far . . .
What was never at stake for her was her identity: she was, and always would be, the Lord’s servant. Nothing had changed though everything had changed. Even a visit from an angel could not shake this foundation.
All that was normal and known and safe may be shattered; but, her eye of the storm was this crazy certainty of her identity as the Lord’s servant.” – Shelly Cunningham, Director of Instructional Development (from The Advent Project)
If there ever was a reason to doubt your purpose or reputation or life trajectory, it would be the reality of an unbelievable pregnancy at the age of 14. Forget all those other plans and hopes and dreams. Forget all the regular stuff that happens at 15, 16, and 17. Forget the holiday parties and feasts. Mary’s identity got altered in many ways when that angel gave the news, but in one very particular way it never changed.
Mary identified herself as the Lord’s servant – before, during, and after the events that altered her existence.
Not a single slushy winter day can alter something that is carved in the Book of Life. Not a heap of tired bones or a string of sleepless days or a week packed too tightly can change a fact that is rooted in the soil of eternity.
God’s words are heavier than winter.
He speaks an identity over us that cannot be shattered or shaken. And that’s good because there are better people with more important problems and I need to know this about their identities, too. I need to know that the Lord listens and looks out for the hurting and broken and least of these.
The hurting and broken and ‘least of these’ are just exactly those who are looking for a Savior. And that kind of anticipation is what advent is all about.