Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mary of Aleppo

Every year some part of the Jesus birth narrative strikes me differently. For the past few years, it has been that the birth wasn't a pretty, sanitized thing, but was full of dirt and muck and loneliness. The song, "Labor of Love" by Andrew Peterson, has been my song of the season in the past.

This year it is Mary's Magnificat that has captured and held my attention. I've read a couple of articles about how Mary was not meek and mild but that she was a revolutionary, a rebel against the occupation.

I'm sure you've seen the video footage coming out of Aleppo. I watched one yesterday that started with a shell-shocked child sitting on a gurney, like so many of the shell-shocked Syrian children we've seen lately. Blood is on his forehead. Beside him was a woman from the same building that had been bombed. She is mourning and crying for her lost children. Her face is bloodied also.

"Omran, Angels Are Here!" by Judith Behr
The camera moves to a teenage boy standing in the door way. He's holding a baby, cradling it, a baby that has suffocated in the collapsed building. He is the last of his family.

The camera returns to the boy, his baby brother wrapped and on his lap. He is sitting next to the mourning woman.

The teenaged boy pats her on the shoulder and says, "It's okay, God will avenge us against the oppressor."

I think: you're going to get yourself killed.

And it hits me. That's Mary.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.
(from the Magnificat, Luke 1:52-53).

It's a gut reaction it is backed up by history.

Nazareth is one mile from Sepphoris, which in 4 BCE (per Josephus) was sacked by Judas ben Ezekias in a revolt against Herodian rule. (This was after Herod the Great.) [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews] The Roman governor of Syria burnt down the city and sold its inhabitant into slavery. That last is probably hyperbole on Josephus' part. Archaeologists have not been able to find traces of burning. But the governor of Syria surely responded to put down a rebellion. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews]

Mary lived through that. In her village of Nazareth, one mile away, although later tradition also has her growing up in Sepphoris.

One mile from Aleppo would be close enough. She would say "God will avenge us."

It is my hope, that as Mary gave birth, and witnessed all the wondrous events surrounding the birth of her son that as she pondered things in her heart, she realized God had bigger plans than mere revenge, that she had given birth to the Savior, not just of her corner of the earth, but of the world.

But this story has not finished working itself on me and I have perhaps tied too neat a bow onto the end of it.

Mary of Aleppo, hear our prayer and save your people.


[Video link for the last hospital in Aleppo: the images are "upsetting" as the very British news announcer put it.]
[Video link for the song "Labor of Love"]

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What I Learned This Fall

Emily over at chatting at the sky, is now doing quarterly link-ups for what we've learned each quarter. Previously, it was each month and before I knew it the month was over and I hadn't gotten around to posting. So, here's hoping quarterly does the trick!

1. I love painting intuitively.

I took Flora Bowley's Bloom True-course this fall and finished a painting that just glows with color. But the more important thing was that the act of painting (by making a series of marks, grooving, just seeing where the color and marks take you) brings me joy, even when I'm angry or upset. Putting paint on a canvas really makes a difference. Am wondering if this should really be my meditation practice...

2. Being open to other worship experiences can bring clarity

It helped me to remember what is important about worship. In a short time span, I attended an interfaith labyrinth service, a UCC church and three other Episcopal churches. One of the latter is St. Gregory's of Nyssa which has great music and a beautiful way of punctuating the scripture readings with a series of Tibetan bowls. Really magical.

It brought clarity as to what is really important about worship: which is worshipping in community and worshipping in a way that brings joy, whether that is the Tibetan bells, bare feet, or singing from the pews and receiving the music instead of delivering it.

3. It's okay to stop doing church.

By that I do not mean to stop going to church, but to stop doing it. Stop with the committees and the planning and all that and just being in the church and being the church. This is my current season, and I'm really rather enjoying it. 

4. "Sleepy" hand lotion from LUSH 

It is not just dreamy to look at, but dreamy to smell on sleeping and on waking.


5. New Christmas albums: 

I haven't bought a full Christmas album in a while but I've bought two this year: check out Jordan Smith's "'Tis the Season" and Leslie Odom Jr.'s "Simply Christmas"