Mthr Sue Currie
Preparation and Mystery
by Cindy Carter
If you are like me, you may be in the midst of various forms of preparation for Christmas. I’m preparing for giving gifts, making items, wrapping presents, mailing packages. I’m also making preparations for hosting family for Christmas day, planning a menu and making a grocery list. There is much to be done.
With Sheep of the Good Shepherd we have been preparing too. Chris Sherratt and I prepare each week – we prepare ourselves, our lessons, with help from others we set up the Resource Room for special use with children, and we prepare the materials that the children work with. We prepare our best, without knowing who will come that week or what ages they will be. But, the work of preparation always bears fruit—in our lives and in the small worshiping community we have formed.
When we gather together, whoever is present, there is joy! Joy in the Gospel proclamation shared, pondered together and responded to in our reflections, songs, and prayers. There is also delight in the unique response of each child, when they share connections that they have made with other scripture they know, or have a song they want to share with us. And there is the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit who shows up every time we meet together to worship and to meditate on God’s word. He enlivens our interactions and we all learn and grow together, side by side as brothers and sisters in God’s family.
During Advent we are deliberate in our time of preparation with children, preparing to receive the Mystery of the Incarnation. We begin with geography of the land of Israel in the time of Jesus, establishing the reality of Jesus in a real place and time. We learn first about the three principal cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. Each week we also share some key prophecies about the Messiah, and the work of the prophets. We connect our time of waiting and preparing with the people of Israel of old, those that were waiting and watching long before Jesus’ birth. We reflect on the prophets as God’s messengers, as those he sent to his people to help and sustain them in their waiting with his words of encouragement.
Key prophecies that we focus on include Isaiah 9:2 about the Light that shines for people who had walked in darkness, and Isaiah 9:6 the prophecy of the Names: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given… and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” We wonder what kind of names these are, and what they tell us about this child. We also think about other names we know from the Bible that help us understand who this Jesus is. We offer these images of the Light and the incongruous image of the child with the magnificent names as part of the Mystery of the Incarnation. That they reveal more to us about how Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. They encourage belief in God’s promises. They prepare us to receive God’s revelation of himself in Jesus, the God who wants to be with us and is coming.
Each week we also look together at one of what we call the Infancy Narratives from Luke. Each one focuses on some aspects of the Mystery of the Incarnation, and the big picture of them is to reveal more of Jesus, and to answer the question “Who are you Lord?’ In the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary we hear and reflect on God’s plan and Mary’s faithful response and collaboration, uniting humanity and divinity in the person of Jesus. What a mystery! God made man, because He loves us and wants to be with us! Next, we consider the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. In this we see Jesus, even as a baby yet to be born, as the cause of great joy, recognized by Elizabeth (and her baby John) through the power of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth states that “the baby in my womb leaped for joy”, and she recognizes Mary as “the mother of my Lord!” This Sunday we will consider again the Nativity and the contrast of the greatness of the Child in the humbleness of feeding trough, and visited by the lowly shepherds. We see the presence of the Messiah as always bringing reason for the greatest joy, and that fear is replaced with rejoicing in those who recognize him.
Week by week we enter into preparation and look into the Mystery that is being revealed to us through scripture, and the anticipation and joy grow. We enter into the way that God himself works, a slow and often hidden way that He carefully, deliberately and faithfully prepares people for the revelation of the plan, to receive the gift of Himself in Jesus.