Prepare ye...for an arrival
Everything is changing. This is the time to prepare. This is the time to prepare for a transition. This is the time to prepare for an arrival.
During this time many people are hosting guests and getting ready for other people to come into their sacred space. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and plus ones are coming over. How do you get ready to welcome them? As my brother and his wife prepared for our arrival at Thanksgiving, they cleaned up space in the attic for us to stay, made sure they had food we liked (sugary cereals and fresh Brooklyn bagels), shifted their plans and schedules to make time to spend with us, and they checked in with us as made the journey. Sometimes there was a lot to physically and practically DO to get ready, and sometimes, the waiting was just…waiting.
As Mark and I prepared for the arrival of our baby, Marley, we were preparing to welcome a child into our home and into our family, but also preparing to become parents. Sometimes it seems it takes just as much if not more preparation to become pregnant. And even then, the road may take you to a different place than you thought. For us, along the way, this meant lots of checkups and the doctor’s office to tend to our health, gathering all the stuff a baby needs, and learning how it all works. Seriously, it practically requires a training course to be able to set up and take down a pack-n-play crib. But it is even more subtle to try and learn how to respond to the all cries and colors and all the needs of an infant that you still don’t really know yet.
As we prepare for an arrival, we prepare for something other- something different and distinct from ourselves to come into our midst. And that will certainly change our routines.
Mary prepares for pregnancy, for travel, for birth, for motherhood. She may not have had google or a library or Target, but she had the wisdom and generosity of family, friends, elders, and even angels.
Queen Esther is confronted by the cries of her uncle Mordecai and essentially the whole Hebrew people, who face genocide from a political rival who has successfully blamed them for every bad thing in the kingdom. I imagine Esther prepares by weighing her options and their potential for survival, then practicing her speech to the king - what she will wear, what she will say, evaluating what resources she has in relationship to make a difference.
While Esther now has the title of queen, she’s still an ethnic minority, the daughter of a people who can’t go home, a foreigner, and…a woman in the ancient world. Mary is an unwed mother without much money or an important family name to protect her. Esther and Mary are nobody special. They are just names of people we would otherwise pass by. And yet, they are crucial to God’s work and word in the world. We would not know divine liberation and we would not have Christmas without these women, and without the ways they wrestled with getting ready.
What’s unique about the story of Esther is that the name of God is virtually never mentioned, bringing us to ask, where is God in this story? But perhaps unlike other stories and experience, because this story is part of our sacred text, we expect to find God here, even in the in between moments. We get ready to see God in between the lines here We prepare for God to arrive.
So I wonder, what if you saw your life as part for God’s sacred story? And expected God to show up? To be there, even in the middle parts between the bigger moments, even when you think you’re nobody special? I wonder how you prepare for the arrival of joy, of hope, of peace, of love – in others distinct and different from you. But also, I wonder how you prepare for the arrival of joy, hope, peace, and love…not just outside and around you, but in you. I wonder how this changes your routine and your heart. Let it be. Amen.