Powerless Over Advent

Twelve-step recovery programs begin with the following confession:

We admitted we were powerless over [alcohol, drugs, work, food, etc.] —that our lives had become unmanageable.

In the days leading up to Christmas, often our lives feel "unmanageable." There are gifts to buy, concerts to attend, papers to grade, family to visit, cards to send. Add these seasonal obligations to our usual, daily schedules, and chaos easily follows. This past week, I've watched the wooden surface of my desk disappear under to-do lists and letters asking for donations and homemade Christmas candy (well, the container is still on my desk) and orders of worship and elements for Holy Communion and that pair of gloves that I searched for at the house for an hour and ....

My name is Pastor Darian, and I admit that I am powerless over Advent. Christmas, too.

The first step of recovery is not exclusive to the disease of addiction. It is a powerful reminder of our powerlessness in all parts of life. Last Sunday, many of us heard a text in our worship services that resounds every third week of Advent: Mary's Magnificat.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior....
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
— Luke 1:46-47, 52 (New Revised Standard Version)

I've thought about Jesus' mother a lot over the past week. She sings confidently of God's power and admits to her 'lowly' state. She sings the second step of recovery, too: believing a Power greater than her own could restore her--and all of us--to sanity.

Yet how insane she must have felt. How unmanageable life must have seemed when the angel appeared. Singer-songwriter Josh Garrels imagines Mary with a haunting prayer on her lips in the wee hours of the morning:

Before you came she was afraid.

In the night, she cried and prayed:

’O God, am I strong enough

To be the arms of love?’
— "Shepherd's Song"

With Mary, the Church rejoices in God our Savior yet again. We sing of his mighty acts and declare Immanuel--God is with us. Yet when the music fades, and we return to the overwhelmed desks and long nights the question haunts us:

Are we as the body of Christ strong enough to be the arms of love?

The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. From the Word we draw such strength to embody love that embraces one another. We need a power greater than our own to do so. We need one another.

Admitting we are powerless does not take away our fear. Believing in a higher power does not guarantee we will feel 'sane' during times of insanity. Perhaps feeling "out of control" is exactly how we should feel in this season because we are not "in control."

As we take our next steps toward the manger in Bethlehem, walking through the darkest night of the year towards God's eternal light, let us support one another in our time of recovery as the body of Christ. Let us be arms of love. With Mary, let us rejoice not for what we have left undone but for what God has done. Holy indeed is his name.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian