The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 7 Reading: Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist fulfills God’s promise to send a messenger who will prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.
Thresholds offer a heady mix of possibility and peril. They are wildly unpredictable, they stir up questions, they cause us to live with uncertainty, they compel us to develop the ability to attend to the present even as we discern the future. Ultimately, they are places of initiation, taking us deeper into God and into the person God has created us to be.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door
In thinking about the journey of faith, the image I first connected with was the mile marker. You travel along until something major happens. When it does, you stop and mark it; like Abram building an altar or Jacob setting up a pillar. You mark it so you can remember it and find it again.
Jan’s idea of thresholds along our journey feels very different, more proactive than reactive. You travel along until you come to a door and then you make the decision whether or not to walk through. Stepping across the threshold opens a new chapter in the journey as does the decision not to enter.
John the Baptizer prepared people to cross the threshold of faith in Christ. He could help them because he had crossed the threshold himself. Someone showed him the way, maybe his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth, and now it was his turn to make the way straight and smooth for others.
But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration – a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.
– Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
When I was little- long before the advent of Cable, On Demand, DVD’s and the like- certain movies were shown on TV once a year. The one I looked forward to the most was The Sound of Music. The music, beautiful colors, and children attracted me when I was young. Now that I have a little more age on my bones, I better appreciate Maria’s journey, especially her courage to cross thresholds and to help others do the same.
We meet Maria at a threshold moment in her life. She’s struggling to complete the final steps to become a nun. To help her decide whether or not to cross this threshold, the wise Mother Abbess sends her into an unfamiliar place to be the governess to seven children. In being courageous enough to cross the threshold of the convent, Maria discovers her true calling in the beauty of God’s natural places and in the beauty of serving a family desperately in need of love.
The rest of Maria’s story could well be described as a “heady mix of possibility and peril.” In many instances Maria takes on a John the Baptizer role, boldly speaking truth into situations and preparing the family for what is to come. When Maria seems to be losing her way, the Mother Abbess comes alongside her again, taking on the role of the prophet, speaking words of truth and wisdom to prepare Maria for her next step. The other nuns also have their John the Baptizer moments, preparing Maria for her wedding vows with great affection and blessing. At the proper time, they send her forth across the threshold of the convent gate and into the cathedral to initiate and consecrate her new life. They affirm who God has created her to be and the calling God has placed upon her life to be a wife and mother.
Now that I’m aware of thresholds, I see them all around me- Dorothy crossing the threshold into Oz, Neo crossing the threshold from the Matrix and into reality, Scrooge crossing the threshold into faith and good works. I crossed the threshold of faith when I was 16, marriage and children in my 20’s, accepting God’s call to be a pastor at age 30. Again and again, God sends faithful ones to prepare me to cross the next threshold. Again and again, I have the great privilege of preparing others to do the same.
The story is true for you as well. Where does your story intersect with these? Where do you find yourself now? Who is God speaking through in your life as you face a threshold? Who are you preparing for their next step?
This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><
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