Advent is the time to get ready, even though we’re not exactly sure what's out there in the dark. We hope that there will be angels, a baby and light, but first we must navigate the long nights along the path to Christmas.
I think about other times I've had to set out on an unknown path — political, spiritual or personal. Maybe all of the Advents we live are practice for finding our way through dark times.
This year’s journey is into a strange landscape, indeed. There is no map, so it's most important that I walk with trusted, spirited companions. I’ll need to laugh, cry, scream and think in good company: mentors and friends, etc. I'll carry books with me, for sure. For one, I'll take Donald Schmidt's In the Beginning: Creation Spirituality of the Days of Advent.
My friendship with Schmidt goes back to our work on the writing team for The Whole People of God
curriculum. Our job on this ecumenical, international team was to shape lesson plans from lectionary passages. Schmidt was resident scholar and editor while I wrote the adult Bible study. Schmidt, who has served congregations in Quebec, New York, Vermont and Hawaii, has a passion for The Bible and for storytelling. In addition to parish ministry, he composes music, knits and weaves. His writing is passionate, humorous and slightly off-the-wall. Recently, we reconnected in Kelowna, B.C., where he is minister at First United Church.
The brief appendix of Schmidt’s book should be read first: "The story of the magi's journey to Bethlehem provides an intriguing paradigm for the spiritual journey, especially in terms of the four paths of Creation Spirituality."
The readings for the first week follow a path of original blessing, the via positiva
, and parallels the start of the magi's journey to Bethlehem. The second week, the via negative, takes us to the encounter of the terrorist King Herod. Week three is the via creativa
, where the strength to continue is all the greater for having dared the darkness. Finally, the via transformativa
highlights the change; the magi return home by another way.
Transformation is what we hope for in the darkness that surrounds the beautiful, magical story of Christmas. How we will be transformed is not within our knowing when we set out.
But transformation can arrive any old time of year. One of my other travelling companions into Advent is June Churchill of Calgary.
It was a hot day in July when June and I tried creating new words for some traditional Christmas carols. If you wish, take this one with you as you begin your Advent journey.What Child is This?
1. What child is this who laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ our kin
Whom we all love and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him love
This babe, this child of Mary.
2. Why lies he here so vulnerable?
With other children waiting
The homeless ones, and refugees
And adults continue debating.
These babes are also kin,
Whom we shall love as angels sing
Haste, haste we'll justice bring
These babes, these children of mercy.
Surely, mercy will go with us, along with humour, peace, justice and good companions. Blessings on your own preparations for Advent.