This Advent I’m delighted to bring you a variety of voices – authors, pastors, theologians, and philosophers – each of whom has a unique and beautiful take on a particular passage of Scripture related to the Advent season.
My prayer is that these reflections would help guide your devotional life as you participate in this season of holy waiting.
Without further ado, let’s begin, with a reflection taken from Anna Woofenden’s upcoming (and quite fantastic!) book, This is God’s Table, used by permission of Herald Press.
Hunger * An Advent Reflection by Anna Woofenden
December’s shifting sun meant it was dusk by the time our Sunday dinner rolled around at the Garden Church, an urban farm and outdoor sanctuary on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
It grew cooler, too. We purchased and borrowed big patio heaters for people to huddle around. All through Advent, we gathered people together for worship with the song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” My sister Nora walked in and out of the garden beds with her guitar, with the children singing and trailing after her, “O Come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…”
Being outside in the elements brought Advent into focus for me. During worship we needed the heaters and the blankets that one of the aunties had crocheted for us. Those of us with homes stepped back to make room for those living outdoors in the cold and damp.
Nora and I stood side-by-side trying to warm each other as we watched our unhoused neighbors move in close. The cold in my hands did not seem so important when Betty’s chapped hands were reaching out for heat as well. For just a couple of hours a week, I was given a tactile reminder of the experiences my neighbors were having every day and night.
The reality of the incarnated, eternal God walking in human form on earth became less abstract for me as I pastored the flow of people who came and went through our gates—the homeless, the young and pregnant, the immigrant, the wanderer, the prophets in torn clothing with shaggy hair.
The stories of Christ’s time on earth were often in my mind as I watched our transient neighbors bundle up after Sunday service and return to the streets, I noted the young woman at the picnic table with a five-month-old son whose stroller doubled as storage for their clothing and shared bedding as they made their way from the shelter to someone’s couch to the shelter again. I thought of Mary and Joseph, far from home, looking for a place not only to sleep but for Mary to give birth, and finding only closed doors.
Throughout December, the dirt hard beneath my boots and the chilly wind catching my words as I said the invocation, the apostle John’s poetic rendering of the incarnation of Christ took on flesh.
In the beginning there was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. The Word was present to God from the beginning. In the Word was life, a and that life was humanity’s light—a Light that shines in the darkness, A Light that the darkness has never overtaken. –John 1:1-2, 4-5 TIB
It was the “in-flesh” idea that kept returning to me. The great loving God of the universe understands that gritty, dry feeling when your hands have been in the dirt and you don’t have access to warm water and gentle soap. The God of the universe understands that sensation in the pit of the stomach when it has been too long since you have had food, and the parched feeling of not enough to drink.
The God of the universe sees those who have traveled far from home, escaping harm and seeking safety and care for their families. Divinity came and in-fleshed itself here among us, among our neighbors as they were quite literally pitching their tents, huddled down by the post office and in the park by the bridge. Born through a woman far from home and away from all she knew, in a shed, behind the inn, with the animals, and visited by shepherds, God Incarnate had pitched a tent among us.
Anna Woofenden is a pastor, church planter, and the author of This is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls, coming out with Herald Press Spring of 2020. You can follow Anna at annawoofenden.com and on FB at RevAnnaWoofenden, Instagram @revannawoof and Twitter @annawoof