2017 December Issue
of The Sermon Mall


Hospitality For God

With Advent we step into the beginning of the Church Year—that great circle of time tracing the eternal work of God in Jesus. Each year we trace our pilgrimage along this holy path, always held to the center as the Lectionary readings pull our attention toward the Jesus event, and the cosmic embrace of God's love.

The Advent path also leads us into the bruised reality of this world. Even as God comes gently in the baby, inviting embrace and touching what is tender and needy within us "There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you" (Is 64:7). We just don't expect you to "come down" that way (v.3). But then, without some pause for reflection and receptivity, our expectations for Advent are not usually formed by the Spirit. We are picking up the pace, driven by a compulsion to work and program Advent into happening.

Quietly, brightly, Advent stands like an angel, greeting us on the pathway to the new year, announcing the presence of the "God...who works for those who wait for him" (v.4). This waiting feels risky. Like Mary we are much perplexed by this kind of language and wonder what sort of greeting this might be (Lk 1:29). We cannot conceive what it is like for God to be doing the work, for us to bear Christ and to give birth to what God is doing. We are so accustomed to running the affairs and programs of the church, we are not sure how to wait for God to show us how to enter into Advent on another path, or how to invite others to walk this path. Sometimes we feel tired of the compulsive race, and like tired, dry clay, drop into the hands of the Potter. Finally we rest and can say: "We are the work of your hand" (Is 64:8).

There is a profound receptivity here. The Advent angel now instructs us: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk 1:35). Then, with Mary, we become hospitable within the womb of our soul and pray: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (Lk 1:38).

I invite you this Advent season to pray this prayer of Mary: as you drive, as you wait at stoplights or pause between tasks, as you shower, as you walk to check the mail, as you knead Christmas breads, as you knock at the door before making a pastoral call, as you go shopping. Allow the prayer to find its place within your heart, and to begin praying itself within you. Notice the invitation of the Spirit of God as you stay with the prayer and the gentle shaping of the Potter forming your soul and life.

Wendy J. Miller Eastern Mennonite Seminary Harrisonbug, VA

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