Today I'm delighted to host a guest: novelist Gail Kittleson, who brings a reflection about Advent and about following God despite our own fear.
The Gospel message hinges on change. That precipitous day marking the end of our Advent season is fast upon us, bringing to mind Jesus’ clear instructions:
Unfortunately, human beings fear change more than a visit from the IRS. Change implies risk, and for better or worse, we cling to the same old ways, comfortable thought channels, and familiar attitudes.
Changing means we’d have to follow in the steps of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Talk about life-altering experiences—she endured the rough donkey ride to Bethlehem and birthed her infant in circumstances that left much to be desired. What went through her mind as she greeted the scraggly shepherds and heard the angels sing?
And Joseph—surely he realized by then that he’d given up control completely. But with his heart open to the Almighty’s plan, he listened for more guidance. And it arrived, albeit , in the form of the Magi's gifts and another dream.
In this season of darkness and expectation, much as we fear change, we long to believe and embrace God’s plans for us. We balance our hopes and dreams in an ambivalent conundrum, for,
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." (George Bernard Shaw)
Once, Advent’s forty days meant waiting for Epiphany, when the Magi visited the Christ child, God Incarnate. The Church focused on His Second Coming, but as the centuries passed, Roman Christians began to associate this season with the birth of Jesus.
So we have new birth juxtaposed with the loss of innocence—Mary and Joseph thrust into the adult world of danger and intrigue. Soon, someone powerful and ruthless will seek to kill their beautiful baby. Their “Yes” to God’s call brings unforeseen complications.
Likely, ours will too. But the alternative is remaining in darkness and snuffing out that empowering expectancy that haunts us: expectancy about the future, about what we might do, about what God might do in and with us ... we pay a price if we deny light’s strong call.
It took decades for me to dare to bloom as a writer. My experience parallels the atmosphere of Advent—desiring something deeply, yet hesitating out of fear. But on the other side, having shared my writing with the world, I wonder how I could have waited so long.
Help us, Lord, to mimic the faith of Mary and Joseph. Give us courage, at whatever our stage of life, to seek your guidance and honor the light You give us.
- Gail Kittleson taught college expository writing and ESL. Now she writes women’s fiction and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. Her World War II series, Women of the Heartland is going strong, with In Times Like These published in April, 2016 and With Each New Dawn releasing with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in February, 2017.
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