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Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

by davesandel on December 9th, 2021

Thursday, December 9, 2021                         (today’s lectionary)

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

In her book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, Fleming Rutledge, preacher and rector extraordinaire in the American Episcopal Church, asks, “Does Advent run backwards?”

No.

But the season begins with Jesus’ second coming and ends with his birth? Why?

Our solemnity and awe do not lie in the fact that the baby becomes the eternal Judge. What strikes us to the heart is this: the eternal Judge, very God of very God, Creator of the worlds, the Alpha and the Omega, has become that little baby. (p. 60)

At Houseboat, the monthly men’s meeting I often attend, we sat outside under a gentle Austin sky and talked. Shannon brought a 30 inch pizza from Almarah’s, along with 14 more pizzas, and a Texas sheetcake. Our conversations ended with a circle-up check-in, as usual. Tonight … much pain. The banter broke down into heartfelt prayer.

I am the Lord, your God, who grasps your right hand. It is I who speaks and says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

I shared the depth of my sadness at losing Mom, along with some uncertain sense of relief at completing (perhaps) the leaving and cleaving which began 42 years ago when Margaret and I were married. Friends hugged me afterward. I met a new friend (we were the two oldest guys in the group) who was a Navy vet during the Vietnam War. He talked to his mom everyday, and then she passed away. We hugged each other. We were glad that the very God of very God was coming to us as a baby.

Yes, I was glad for the season of Advent, grateful in this season for my freedom to live in the already and not yet, to be quiet in the shorter days and longer nights, recognizing sorrow and joy, suffering and satisfaction as two sides of the same coin, flipped into the air and coming back down onto the earth, first one side and then the other, both touched by the finger of God.

The hand of the Lord has done this. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.

Two days ago I found a grasshopper sitting on a leaf of the beautiful pale red poinsettia someone left beside our door. I took her off the leaf and set her on the sidewalk. We carried the poinsettia inside.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.

Yesterday, with the poinsettia now taken out onto our small patio on the other side of the apartment, I found a grasshopper sitting quietly beneath our lit desk lamp, warming itself. The same one?

Not for me to say. I lifted her up, gently. I refused the violence available to me. She didn’t try very hard to get away, and I carried her back out to the poinsettia plant, and put her back on the leaf.

Where will she be tomorrow?

 Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

 (Isaiah 41, Psalm 145, Isaiah 45, Matthew 11)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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