Today is a reflection on the Gospel for 4 Advent,
Luke’s story about the angel letting Mary know
what’s about to happen to her.
I am going to put that story up
against the poem titled, “Annunciation”
by the wonderful 20th century Polish poet,
I recommend you look it up – it is a short and
Here is when
poetry rescues me
This is my problem, I realize,
but some of you
may share my problem.
When you tell me
there is a virgin who got pregnant
and you give me a verbatim
of the conversation
between a human and an angel,
well, well then, what I know
No one ever asked me to “believe”
there is a Wonder Woman
or a Black Panther, and because of that,
I can watch those movies
and enjoy the fun.
But all my life, I have been asked to
some Bible stories
that are frankly, unbelievable.
Fortunately, I have come to learn
the distinction between truth and fact,
and I can read the truth embedded
in stories I do not hold as fact.
But before that, I felt
I was constantly challenged to choose
between the stories
and the dimensions of life as I experience them.
But deliver the same truth in a poem,
especially a poem feathered
with simple eloquence,
and I do not feel trapped.
In fact, I can come to the moment
and experience an “Ah ha!”
“He proclaimed something in a language
I didn’t understand…”
“Lord how much we don’t understand
of the most important things…”
“No one can know
how lonely it is
when an angel departs…”
“From now on even an eternity
is too short for awaiting.”
You see, anyone who has been taken up
in a moment of silence –
who has been wrapped in awe
by their sudden presence in a thin place –
anyone who has felt deep,
pervasive, surrounding silence
knows the very next moment
When we are touched,
the kind of touch that penetrates,
the moment ends
and we are alone again.
We don’t have to “believe” in angels
and pregnant virgins
in order to be brought close
to the presence of mystery,
over not understanding what we want most to know.
We know those things
from our own experience.
We don’t have to “believe” them
because we know them.
A poem like Kamienska’s
is evocative – it connotes rather than denotes.
You know, like the word “rose”
denotes a red flower
while it also connotes love and romance?
Luke denotes a wild story
beyond the reach of most human experience.
Kamienska takes that story
and connotes a nearly universal experience.
Does it resolve the conflict
arising from pregnancy without sex,
a kind of spiritual intercourse
with biological consequences? No.
But it places the connotations of that story
within reach of our own experiences.
How lonely it is
when the angel departs.
I have never met an angel, that I know of,
but I have brushed up against thin-moments,
and been in the presence of thin-places,
which delivered me
When those moments end
they are replaced
by the lonely realization
of what just happened and is over.
When we touch
or are touched by
and then return to the ordinary,
there is an ache
to know what we have just known.
When we get brushed by the holy –
and it always comes suddenly
and without warning –
we turn back and say, “Wait!
Wait, come back. I didn’t get all that.
Christmas itself can be that way, in normal times.
You know, before the pandemic
when we are suddenly surrounded by family
and close friends
and it is so wonderful we can almost taste it.
Then it is gone.
Like that, is how Christmas
can sometimes be.
I wonder if we can find the precious
differently this year.
I wonder if we can touch
or be touched
by a different dimension of Christmas
in this pandemic year.
Now is the time
to lean into is
if we do.
Many of us will be more solitary this year.
Christmas will not mean the faces around the table
Even for those who will gather,
the gathering will feel differently
because we are all in that cone of silence this year.
We are left alone this year – as when
the angel has gone.
We are left standing in the presence
of something wonderful
we do not understand
and want more of.
Frankly, we are left in a moment
so pregnant with possibilities
we can hardly begin to see them all.
It is not until we give ourselves to the silence
and surrender to the absolute mystery
that we will be touched again.
And when we do,
and when we are,
the possibilities poking through the other side
of this pandemic bubble,
will appear like stars in the night sky.
I hope that is not too connotative for you,
but it is as close to proclaiming
as I ever want to get.
Peace be with you.
YouTube Sermon Video