[Bobby Gross lives in Atlanta. He is the author of “Living the Christian Year”.]
Bobby Gross approaches Advent like this:
If Advent is a time of watching for signs of hope and waiting for the light of Christ, the time for God to enlarge us with His quiet presence, how can we enter into this season and let it enter into us? The approach I have embraced is to give myself two permissions, practice two disciplines, and cultivate two postures.
This post will look at the postures he refers to.
Alert Posture and Open Posture
One day the old man Zechariah is on duty at the Temple with his fellow priests. It falls to him to light the incense in the inner sanctuary. He enters, properly reverent. But then he sees the angel and is terrified. He hears the words about his many prayers being answered, his aging wife becoming pregnant, and his son growing up to be a prophet; but he can’t quite absorb them. His skepticism kicks in and he challenges the Being before him: “How will I know that this is so?”
How hard to stay alert to the presence and workings of God, even when our lives are patterned around worship and service. As a season of anticipation, Advent calls us to a posture of alertness. Be watchful and ready, Jesus repeatedly urged, because he could come at any time, like a burglar breaking into our home. So in these weeks of Advent we ask God to heighten our awareness of His presence, to open our eyes to what He is doing–in us and in the world. He may speak to us through the words of others, He may show Himself in the face of someone in need, He may care for us through the kindness of friends, He may move us when we gather for worship, He may stir us through art or music, or He may whisper inwardly by His spirit.
Young Mary stands in contrast to Zechariah (Luke 1:26-38). She too was caught off-guard by the same angel and hears words she can scarcely take in. She too questions, but from a different posture; hers is a more humble perplexity. Gabriel’s reply only pushes into deeper mystery. She has a choice, as Denise Levertov insightfully considers in her poem “Annunciation.” Levertov muses on the typical painting of this biblical scene with its “angelic ambassador” arriving “on solemn grandeur of great wings” and then writes:
“But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions courage. The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. God waited. She was free to accept or to refuse, choice integral to humanness.”
Yes, so very human. Just like us. Mary chooses a posture of openness: I am wholly yours, I am fully open to your word, I believe, let it be so with me. A humble stance, a courageous yes. She is our model. By her posture she makes room for God. She too will have nine months to ponder the workings of God and to wait for His arrival. Advent invites us to do the same.