Thursday, December 9, 2010

Apparently, Spring is Coming

Our Lectionary texts for this Third Week of Advent are Isaiah 35:1-10, Luke 1:46-55 (we get this second gospel text in place of a Psalm, because Mary's song reads very much like one!), and Matthew 11:2-11. Read them here, along with a reading from James that, though fabulous, won't be among our readings this week.

When February rolls around, some people look towards the infamous groundhog to find out if winter is finally over. For me, as a child February's progression meant that, every time I walked out the back door of my family's home, I would peer into the mulchy bed to the right of the steps, straining to see the first glimmer of purple. Usually, right around my birthday at the beginning of March, it would suddenly appear: sometimes poking up through snow, sometimes responding to a burst of warm air, a single crocus--the first visible sign that, apparently, spring was coming...and coming soon.

Isaiah tells us that the crocus' time has come: this crocus strains not through mulch or through ice but through the harsh wilderness landscape of the desert--a rocky land where nothing blooms. Yet here we find not just a single crocus, but crocus(crocuses? croci? Not sure on the plural...) that "blossom abundantly," signaling the unlikely dawn of a new season. It's a day when everything from the physical environment to the human heart will be miraculously transformed, where it's impossible to get lost even if you left your GPS at home--and all because God is here, a God who has been as absent to the people during exile as water is to the desert.

Mary sings of the crocus, too--of another glimpse of what it looks like to be able to say with confidence, "Here is your God." Mary sings of a social order transformed, of oppressed people put on an even playing field, of economic justice, of promises fulfilled--all because of this unexpected baby beginning to kick in her womb, the first signs of a new season in her life and the life of her people.

In prison, however, it's hard to see a crocus--or anything--growing outside of the dark concrete walls. In his cell, John is filled not with song but with one piercing question, the question of one who thought they'd seen spring beginning to dawn but who now can't see a sign of any blessed thing breaking through the ground: "Are you the one who is to come, or should we be expecting someone else?" It is the question of one who has seen his shadow and scurried back into his hole, this life of being a prophet far more difficult than he'd imagined and whose dream Messiah has turned out to be a little slower than his heart had hoped. Nothing was turning out like John had would the crocus ever bloom? Would spring ever come?

It's cold as all get out in Annapolis this week...the time for crocuses to bloom could not feel farther away. But hang in there, friends. If we believe these promises of God...then apparently, spring is coming. And as we ask our heartbreaking questions of that promising God, we might begin to see glimpses of budding miracles of truth: the blind can see, the lame can dance, and the most helpless among us learn God is on their side.

A Parting Poem to reflect on:

"Waiting for It," by R.S. Thomas

in the small hours
of belief the one eloquence
to master is that
of the bowed head, the bent
knee, waiting, as at the end
of a hard winter
for one flower to open
on the mind’s tree of thorns.

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