Abiding in Advent
I will bring a cup of water. here's the best that I can offer
In the dusk of coming night, there is evidence of light
With the pattering of rain, let us bow as if in grace
Consider all the ways we heal, and how a heart can break.
Oh abide with me, where it's breathless and it's empty
Yes, abide with me and we'll pass the evening gently
Stay awake with me and we'll listen more intently
To something wordless and remaining, sure and ever changing
In the quietness of now
Let us ponder the unknown, What is hidden and what is whole
And finally learn to travel at the speed of our own souls
There is living water, a spirit cutting through
Always changing always making, all things new.
There are things I cannot prove, and still somehow I know
It's like a message in a bottle that some unseen hand has thrown
You don't have to be afraid, you don't have to walk alone
I don't know but I suspect, that it will feel like home.
~ Carrie Newcomer (bold, italicized words, my choosing)
Wednesday's theme: Grief
It seems like this Advent has so many grieving places. Maybe it’s me, but the nights are feeling longer and colder. I know that we are moving toward our time to change from autumn to winter, moving toward the Winter Solstice. I know all of that. But/and my heart feels especially tender this year. COVID’s quarantining and isolating has been a challenge for this extrovert. In this season traditionally holding both caroling and gatherings, I’m missing both. Also, this year our family lost two uncles. I’m missing them and my heart holds our family close this December. I find myself lighting as many candles as I can each night. I catch myself humming or singing out-loud favorite carols as I’m walking through the neighborhoods. I’m trying to find my way.
We had a professor in seminary, Fred Craddock who taught us about staying in our leaving and leaving in our staying. It took me some time to begin to understand what he was talking about. I came to appreciate that much of life holds layers and often two things going in opposite directions come somehow to a similar place. Dr. Craddock was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. He taught us to preach the Word of God through our stories and to invite our congregations to do the same. He taught us from the inside out and back again. He was such a lover of words. When he was preaching, I used to hang on most every one of them. He taught us that there are words strong enough to hold our hearts.
Abiding as one such word. Abiding speaks to the truth of what I think Dr. Craddock meant by staying in the leaving and leaving in the staying. It speaks to companioning from the rising of the sun until it’s setting, and then waiting through those hours until the light returns. Abiding speaks to the listening beyond that time when words have run out and two souls are sitting in silence. Two souls sitting in silence because now words are no longer needed. Abiding is much like that.
Advent’s touchstones are found in abiding. Slowing down. Paying attention. Waiting. More than just being in the same physical space abiding speaks to marking places for the moments in our stories. Abiding leans in and walks beside.
Carrie Newcomer’s song about abiding does my heart good every time I hear her sing it. It feels beautifully and comfortingly true. She begins with an offer of a cup of water, the best that I can offer. Yes. There are things I cannot prove and still somehow, I know. Yes. She marks life’s mysteries, sure and ever changing. Both. Yes. Abiding helps us lean in. It helps us hold our hope. Abiding helps guide us as we make our way through. Yes.
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"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.