Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
December 12th, 2021
The Third Sunday of Advent

Excerpt from
Advent Pastiche, C.1985

The Virgin's lamp
burned bright.
In the dark room
of her womb,
God planted a Son
and the Kingdom thrived
like the mustard seed.

The woman
grew big with child.
Dreams and angelic visions
proclaimed the greatness
of the Lord
and the handmaid sang:
"Sing, sing psalms of praise,
Bless God's Holy Name!
I dance
on the crescent of the moon,
decked in the sun,
crowned with twelve stars,
waiting
for the fruit
of my womb."


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QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION

  • What do YOU believe in this Christmas?
  • How can YOU strike a balance between fantasy and religious observance?
  • What spiritual practices help you stay grounded in Advent?
  • What might families do to include Christmas in their observance of Advent?


Greetings, SBT Readers!

12.12.21 -- the numbers are auspicious. Third Sunday of Advent and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- another convergence of days and meaning... As a Child of the Winter Solstice, I await my birthday with joyful expectation -- not because I am driven by astrology, but because I have claimed my birthday as the time when the "shortest" day holds the promise of longer days to come. Apparently, I took my time coming into this world and, as a result, my dad used to joke that I arrived on the "longest" day of the year. I understood this to mean that my arrival was an "inconvenience," a suggestion that prompted defiance on my part and not a few crocodile tears.

12.21.21 is eleven days from now. I am swept forward by Zephaniah's message of hope, believing in God's saving Presence, the end of all judgement, misfortune and discouragement; I take shelter under the star-strewn mantilla of the Virgen of the Americas; and I cry out in joy because, here in our midst, is the Holy One of Israel!
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

A Blessed Advent!

Elizabeth


SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

Now, filled with expectation, the people were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them, saying, “I baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to untie the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor,
to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Encouraging them in many other ways, John preached the good news to the people.
LK 3:10-18

On the first floor of Macy's State Street store in Chicago, superimposed on a baldacchino-like structure in the make-up department, the word "BELIEVE" is written in Hollywood lights. Despite the religious associations of a baldacchino, however, this ecclesial architectural feature has nothing to do with altars or with the celebration of the sacred liturgy; nor does it invite passers-by to believe in God, the Christmas story, or the Second Coming of Jesus. Instead, Macy's marketing department has cleverly hi-jacked religious symbolism for commercial ends. Bedazzled by the size and brilliance of the letters, Macy's shoppers are coerced into "believing" in amazing sales and in the possibility of finding the perfect gift at the perfect price -- or a new outfit to flaunt on social occasions, or that sexy perfume to turn heads, or diamonds and chocolates to woo the most discriminating of dates...

BELIEVE. The word itself summons consumers into a fairy-tale world of elves and wish lists. Children and adults alike can participate in Macy's "magic" by visiting Santaland in person or else virtually. Traditionalists can schedule an appointment with St. Nick for the usual "photo with Santa," while those who opt for a "remote" visit interact with Santa via a "whimsical, pre-recorded conversation." To get the most out of either experience, all visitors need do is believe!

Given the darkness of our world and the dire situations facing humanity, there is nothing wrong with a little levity or fantasy; however, when "belief" ignores core values, deeper meaning and joy in the saving power of God, then the secular world has tamed the Christmas Story into a birthday party for children, replete with gifts, catchy melodies and traditions such as sing-alongs in Orchestra Hall or dance performances of The Nutcracker. What is missing is the "so what?" of Christmas, the ability to behold God's Presence in our midst. "Belief" in Christmas is the capacity to see God's saving power shine through the birth of Jesus into the human condition. Far from being born under the gilded magnificence of a Renaissance baldacchino, the Christ Child manifested in the glory of straw, in the humblest of circumstances, under conditions akin to those experienced today by stateless refugees. True belief, then, involves asking, "What does God want of me?" and, "How can I best respond?" "How can I share the glorious Birth with those who have ears to hear? How can I unstop my own ears so that I can receive the fullness of joy?"


RESOURCES
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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com