The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Starting this week, and every Sunday following, I’ll be posting my thoughts on the traditional readings from the Catholic/Protestant Lectionary. This is at least a foolhardy and presumptuous endeavor, and at the worst truly offensive to both clergy and the faithful. However it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and there are only three people reading this blog right now so I’m doing it.

Here are the readings for this week. Since I’m just starting off this crazy-ass idea, I won’t go into history or criticism this time (though I hope to in the future). Instead, I’ll focus on the single reading I found most intriguing and develop a theme from there.

Merry christmas!Mic 5:1-4a

Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.

Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.

He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the Lord,
in the majestic name of the Lord his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.

I’m using these Sermon Sundays mostly as an excuse to read/study the Bible in greater depth. So what drew me to the excerpt from Micah was actually reading Micah 6:1-6:3, which says “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples/Like dew coming from the Lord, like raindrops on the grass/Which wait for no man, nor tarry for the sons of men.”

It is all too easy to talk about the comfort of the light of God in the dark times of the year. Phrases like that, repeated endlessly in the winter months, end up losing all meaning for me. Yes, it is the beginning of Winter now. The snow landed yesterday evening and blankets the wide, dirty city today. But to a nonbeliever or even a skeptic, the anticipation by Christian-kind of a miraculously redemptive “birth of Christ” seems tremendously silly. (It sounds, incidentally, like much of the rest of Micah: “God is coming, everyone look busy.”)

I found Micah’s later words inspiring because they took me a step back from the “Do You See What I See?” version of events, while still speaking to the nature of religious experience. (And let me just acknowledge again how monumentally unfit I am to speak on this subject, since I can’t say for sure that I’ve had one).

What I have experienced is a transcendence, momentarily, of my Self. And rather than being full of bombast and pa-rum-pa-pum-pums, those few moments were as Micah describes: “like dew coming from the Lord, like raindrops on the grass.” It was soft and subtle, yet like a tiny water droplet I felt myself reflecting the world.

This is, for me, the importance of this season of darkness. We are critters at our core, and when Spring and Summer are around our focus goes out to the world: it is time to eat fruit, fuck, and hang out by the water. Winter is the time to reflect. It is the time to glance skyward and contemplate your relationship to the Universe.

Does the Universe contain you? Or do you contain the Universe?

It is the time to become a shepherd, lying on your back in the cool Arabian evening and pointing out a single star. What does it mean? Time to become Mary, sweating and grunting in the closeness of night. What will you give birth to? And time to become Jesus, wailing on a bed of hay. What form is this? Whose hands are these? Do they belong to me, or I to them?

“Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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