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I’m sitting next to one of our Christmas trees, facing the other one. Every ornament I hang brings memories—a ceramic Georgia Peach from our trip to Savannah, the sheep mobile from Ace Hardware, the hoof broken off the prancing horse from when I, not the cat, pulled down the tree, the globe with gold bits from Mount Rushmore.

I remember the Christmases, where it hurt to decorate our tree because my family had died, and the one where we gave Bruce’s mother’s tree a home and the one where our neighbors joined us for dinner, the joy of people like family at our table.

On Epiphany I sip hot chocolate to counter the melancholy as I take down those memories, putting this year behind me and looking ahead to the new one, with both dread and hope.

I see the season of the Christmas tree and the lights in Cherry Valley like a flying change, the time when a horse lifts their legs into the air to change from one direction to the next, a necessary lifting so their legs don’t tangle. I am suspended in a season of remembering and melancholy, hope and taking stock, a season of lights that puncture the darkness.

Jeffrey Davis in Tracking Wonder says this pause is “the subtle space between two thoughts, two actions, or two breaths” called in Sanskrit unmesa and so, I breathe out the year that has passed, pause, breathe in the one on its way.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

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A Meditation on Advent

For the last two years, I’ve signed into the free Advent series Julie Canlis talked about longing in the first Advent session from Open Table Conference. I attended last year and have taken several classes from them including the Unspoken Sermons by George MacDonald, The Gospel of John, and the Apocalypse. The teachers strike me as very humble, people who are working out their salvation with fear and trembling. This is free. The zoom address is 826 7292 7738. Pass code is Waiting. They meet at 6:00 central on Sunday nights through December 19, 2021. Here is the free Vimeo link:

I’m resistant to Canlis’ insistence we open ourselves to old longings that have withered and died. I very much don’t want to go back to longing for my book to be traditionally published or feeling homesick even though I’m home, something I felt as a young girl. Nope, don’t want to go there, even though her advice is wise. I think of Paul the Apostle’s, “Forgetting what’s behind and pressing forward to high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

At any rate, Canlis cited the O Antiphons, which are 1500 year old names for Jesus and calls for him to come. We know them as verses in the Advent hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. She talked about how this is a season that the church reminds us that we are longing for Jesus to return. He has already come but he promises to return, so we are in an eschatological pause. That pause word again. The Kingdom of God is here now, God is reigning, but it’s also not yet. Death was defeated when Jesus died, harrowed hell, and rose from the grave, but we still die, though in death we meet Jesus

We wait for Christ to come as a baby, a fully human, vulnerable baby who was utterly dependent on his mother for milk and for keeping clean and warm. He comes as a man who grew up with childhood friends, knew the grief of losing his father and his cousin John. He comes as a friend whose friends were utterly clueless about his mission, who slept and fled when he needed them most, and one who betrayed him. He comes as a man who befriended women and who wept when his friend died, even though he knew he would raise him from the dead.

After hearing that many Psalms were about Jesus, I’ve been reading them as though they were poems spoken through Jesus’ emotional state–his joy at the heavens declaring the glory of God, the pain of being betrayed, his anger at injustice, his loneliness. I’ve gotten to know him better on an emotional, human level.

But this same Christ, this fully human, fully divine, person will return to make things right, to cleanse the world and us of all that is not of love’s kind, all that is not good. Creation groans waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. During the seminar, John MacMurray said, “Jesus came to redeem the cosmos–that includes every dashed hope, every failure.”It’s not just us, but all of creation he will make right. David Bentley Hart basically says this in this:

And we wait for Jesus to come to us personally. To open the doors of our prisons. Canlis noted, “O come. O come oh key of David come.” This is the cry for the one who holds the keys to death and Hades, the one who descended to hell, who will meet us in death because He was there to come to us. Now. This is the one, about whom it is said, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21: 3-4.)

Julie Canlis made the point that since Jesus is the Key of David, a key we need to unlock our jails, we can ask him to come, open the door to the prison. She asked us what are the powers that hold us in their grip? And said Jesus is the one who will “bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isa 42: 7).

I think about the times the angel kicked Peter in the side and woke him. Peter’s chains fell off and the two guards chained to him were clueless. The angel told him to put on his clothes, his sandals and his cloak. The jail doors swung open, the sentries were clueless. The city gates swung open. The angel left and when Peter showed up at the door, the believers were clueless that it was really him in the flesh, but it was.

Perhaps this too is a story for us. The one who holds the key of David, may well come, spring open the shackles, spring open the doors, while the jailers still sleep, so that we can re-enter our communities and minister.

So I leave you with Julie Canlis’ question: What are the powers that hold you in their grip? How can Jesus be the key of David right now? Perhaps you have a story of how he’s delivered you in the past, a story that is good to remember, as you wait for that key to turn the tumblers, and swing open the door.

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  • Mark & Karen says:

    Beautiful! Wonderful! Glory!

    Oh I have a story to tell, Katie. Boy o’ BOY, do I ever!

    And the wonder of it all . . . so does each of God’s creatures . . . great and small . . . and every single story involves Jesus!

    This is either True or just some psychic glue I’ve applied to my fractured soul to hold things together . . . until He comes.

    And COME O’ COME, EMMANUEL, HE WILL. I’ve bet every last cent of my soul on this wager of Truth!

    • Oh let’s hear the story? It is wondrous that every story does involve Jesus. Michael Heiser did an amazing podcast on astrology and the Christmas story. And Revelation 12 also echoes astrology along with the Christmas story along with the story of Israel…

      Yes on betting every last wager on the truth of His Coming. You should look up Malcolm Guite’s O Antiphons. They are sonnets for each one and brilliant and I think readily available on the internet or his website. So good to hear your voice. Merry Christmas to you and Karen.

  • Mark says:

    Actually, Katie . . . you can see how HAL got back at me by renaming me “Mark & Karen” in the preceding successfully posted comment.

    One of the Wonders and Joys in Glory will be that all the computers end up in the other place where all the damned things go!

    Now there’s a blessed thought, ain’t it, Sister? Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year!

    • Too funny that Hal did that! Well you two are one, so it makes sense. There’s an interesting writing on Substack called Paul Kingsnorth and he talks about computers like you do, how they’re not so good and how they are taking over our lives. It will be interesting to see how they might be redeemed in glory!

      Merry Christmas! Happy New Year to you both too!