Advent Migration: Unwanted Journey

In the story about the birth of Jesus, we are told that there is a census to be taken related to taxation, and therefore Mary and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home, to be counted.

As the story presents it, this trip is to be undertaken to facilitate the funding of the occupying government that is oppressing the Jewish people.  So, obviously, this is not a trip Joseph and Mary would want to take.  

Then there is the timing.  Mary is pregnant.  Not the time you want to walk or ride a donkey for days on an unwanted trip.  And, not what you want to be doing close to your delivery date.  That’s when you want to be home, on familiar territory, taking it easy, with your family close by, and trusted women to counsel you.  

But we are told of an unwanted trip at an unwanted time.  We are told of a couple thrust into unfamiliar, even unwelcoming circumstances, at a precarious moment.  It’s not ideal.  In life, many times migration is not ideal.  People must undertake transitions at inopportune moments.  A war breaks out and people are forced to clear out to stay alive.  A wildfire sweeps through destroying people’s homes.  A political change makes it impossible to stay put.  A mudslide or tornado or hurricane leaves people homeless and they must relocate.  Threatened gang violence may force a move.  Many times, people are on the move whether they want to be or not.  They are forced by outside circumstances to migrate to stay alive.  Maybe you have been in this circumstance at some point on your life’s journey.

The story of Mary and Joseph invites us to have compassion upon those forced to move, to migrate, by circumstances beyond their control.  Can we think about being understanding?  Can we think about making the way easier and more comfortable?  Can we be welcoming?  Can we offer hospitality and help?  Most people who migrate are not hostile invaders.  They are desperate souls clinging to life.  

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that just as we are re-telling the migration story with no room at the inn, the US government is debating funding a border wall with Mexico.  Hopefully our lawmakers will revisit the Christmas story and know what to do.  

Prayer:  

Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Divine Love this Advent season.  Amen.  

Advent Migration: Finding Elizabeth

In the stories in the Bible around Jesus’ birth, there are several narratives that involve travel and migration.  One is the story of Mary going from Nazareth to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth.  [Luke 1:39-56]  We have been told that Elizabeth, in her old age, is about to become a mother for the first time.  She will give birth to John the Baptizer who will prepare the way for Jesus and announce his coming.  

So the story tells us that pregnant Mary goes to visit pregnant Elizabeth.  When Mary arrives, we are told that the baby leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, so she knows that Mary and her baby are special.  She proclaims this to Mary.  And so Mary receives validation from Elizabeth that Divine Love is at work in her life.  That she is part of a larger plan.  That she is fulfilling the role she is needed for.  Her visit to Elizabeth is very helpful to her.

This story reminds us of our need to have our ministry, our calling, our serving, affirmed and validated by others.  This helps us to know that we are doing what we are needed to do.  It is important that we listen to others who are validating Divine Love at work in our lives.  Where might this kind of affirmation come from?  We don’t know!  It could come from anywhere, so we want to be attuned to that kind of validation.  

The story of Elizabeth and Mary also reminds us that we are needed to listen to others and affirm their calling and their role in creating the commonwealth of God on earth.  We are needed to help others know that they are needed to serve for the greater good.  

We never know who may cross our path; what conversation may come our way.  We want to be aware of the potential for validating Divine Love at work in our lives, the lives of others, and in the world.  

Prayer:  

Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Divine Love this Advent season.  Amen.  

Advent Migration: The Body

In the Christmas story, there is a birth.  Birth is a very physical process definitely involving the body.  When we think of migration, particularly physical migration, from one place to another, we are talking about moving our bodies.  We are talking about our bodies moving from one location to another.

Migration has a strong component of embodiment.  And this reminds us that our bodies play a significant role in our life migration.  As we grow from children to youth to adults, our bodies take on new capabilities.  In some sense, our physical characteristics may significantly define us.  Maybe we are very tall.  Or very well coordinated for playing sports.  Skin color, hair, a birth mark, and other physical characteristics, these things can impact our lives in perhaps unexpected ways.  And then toward the later end of the life cycle, our bodies may lose some of their capabilities and again this requires adjustment and adaptation.  

We are human creatures.  Christmas is a celebration of word made flesh.  Incarnation.  Embodiment of Divine Love.  In flesh and bone and blood.  While our physical characteristics may contribute to our life experience, we also realize that health and health issues have a significant impact on how we make our migration through the living of our days.  Illness, disease, changing physical abilities, pain, these things significantly impact the living of our days.  

Living through an experience of illness can provide much learning and wisdom.  Care taking is a great teacher.  Our physical challenges teach us to care for ourselves and others.  We may learn to see life from a different perspective.  It may become more precious.  In losing a physical ability, we may gain spiritual awareness and insight.  Our journey through life, in our body, is very much part of our migration through the life cycle.  

We want to remember that migration involves the body.  Our bodies change.  This may influence how we are making our way.  Are we taking care of our bodies?  What is the state of our health?  What can we do to make health care more affordable and more accessible to everyone in our country so that all get the care they need?  How do we as the church promote physical health and wellness in our congregations and in the world?  How do we make sure that people can live full lives even with diminishing physical abilities?  

This Advent season may we consider our bodies.  Where are our bodies on their migration through the life cycle?  How can we be healthy, physically, socially, and spiritually?  How can we promote the health of the body in the wider world?  

Prayer:  

Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Jesus this Advent season.  Amen.  

Advent Migration: Life Migration

In the Christmas stories, Mary and Joseph transition from being a couple to being a family, parents.  That is a very significant change.  It is an entire change of life and orientation.  It involves a mammoth reallocation of time and resources.  

Other transitions in the life cycle involve significant transition. Moving from being a child to a teen ager is a big shift with a driver’s license to prove it!  Moving from youth to adulthood is a drastic reorientation.  Oh, I have to take care of things and keep myself and my life together, someone else is not going to do it for me.  There are transitions during adult years to new jobs, new homes, new family arrangements, the empty nest, grandparenthood, retirement.  Really, when you think about it, life is one continuous series of transitions.  

We can think of these changes in terms of migration.  What are we leaving behind?  What are we moving toward?  How do we navigate those changes as smoothly as possible?  It is not always easy.    

It is beautiful that in the church we have relationships with people of differing ages and at many different places along life’s journey.  We can listen to one another and learn from one another about how to traverse the many changes life brings with grace and intention.  This helps us to make our migration through life toward what is life giving and life sustaining.  We can make our transitions, accepting the grief as well as the blessing, with hope and joy.  

In this Advent season, as we think about Mary and Joseph preparing to welcome a new baby, may we think about where we are on life’s journey.  What transitions are we making?  Where is our migration taking us?

Prayer:  

Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Jesus this Advent season.  Amen.  

Advent Migration: Birds do it

Birds do it.  Bees do it.

That old Cole Porter list song reminds us, Birds do it, bees do it.  They don’t only fall in love, they migrate!  Many, many species of animals migrate.  Yes, birds.  Children who live up north are taught about how birds migrate to warmer climes in the winter.  We know that fish and whales migrate.  Turtles migrate. Butterflies migrate.  Wildebeest migrate.  Migration is part of the natural world.  Animals migrate to live, to flourish, to survive.

People, also part of the natural world, migrate.  People migrated out of the Rift Valley in Africa and over the course of 1000’s of years have populated Earth.  And people continue to migrate.  We are told that there is more migration going on now than at any other time in human history.

Why do people migrate?  There are countless answers, but fundamentally, for the same reason as other animals:  to live, flourish, and survive.  

Each year in this season of Advent, we make a migration of sorts.  We prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  We go through rituals and spiritual practices helping us to get ready, to be open, to experience.  Why do we make this migration?  Why do we do this preparation?  Why do we want to be ready for this celebration?  

Jesus is life-giving.  He points us to life full and free and joyful.  He shows us how to live more deeply and with purpose.  He invites us to health and wholeness.  So during Advent, we make a journey toward more fully receiving Jesus and all that he is bringing into the world.  We want to make our way to peace, hope, and love that supports and sustains life.

Prayer:

Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Jesus this Advent season.  Amen.