“It’s a serious thing, just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.” — Mary Oliver
“Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who is there.” — Rumi
“There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle and the other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
I wrote this parable some years ago. It’s adapted from a riddle I’d heard as a kid. Only now has it begun to make sense to me. I hope it offers a window of illumination and inspiration for you this season of Advent in a time of COVID.
A dying father sent word for his adult sons and daughter to meet with him at his bedside. When they arrived the next day he told them, “I will not be here much longer. One of you will inherit my land and all its livestock. Managing this land will require more than skill but wisdom as well. So, I’m giving you a riddle and whoever best solves it will be the one to inherit this land.”
The siblings stood silently as their father spoke. “Find two things with which you will be able to fill this room completely. Bring them to me by tomorrow afternoon.”
The three left quickly to put their heads and hands to the task. The following afternoon they returned to prove their skill and wisdom to their father. And so he asked each one in turn to solve the riddle.
The first son dragged in a huge cloth bag filled with something. He tore open the bag and tossed down feathers all about the room until it was filled with floating feathers of all sizes. An impressive sight to see — until the feathers eventually floated down to the bed and floor, leaving the floor a mess and the rest of the room’s space empty.
The second son pulled out a much smaller sack filled with flour. He ripped it open and shook the flour all about the room. All four began coughing and choking from the fine powder in the air. While it did indeed fill most of the room in a cloud of white dust, in time it too settled on the tops of the furniture and bed and floor.
Their sister walked over to the windows and pulled the shades to darken to room. She then took from her pocket a match and candle. Igniting the candle, the tiny flame filled the entire room with light. Her brothers and father were all surprised and smiled at the simple wisdom of her choice. The father could see that his daughter would be the one to inherit the land. But she interrupted him before he could announce the result. She went to the windows, opened the shades and filled the room once again with the original light outside.
“Father,” she said, “though I was able to illuminate a darkened room with candlelight, the light itself has been here all along, filling this space. We have been living in it, illuminated by it, and even nourished by it. We simply never really notice it.”
It is easy for us to long for hope, peace, love, and joy in a season of Advent that seems devoid of such — where people are so immersed in a pandemic reality of political divisiveness, fear, illness, and insecurity. But the same mindlessness that is often present when we default to fear, insecurity, or divisiveness may also be what is present in our inability to see the hope, peace, love, and joy that is already here, has been here all along — filling the space in which we live and move and have our being. What may be needed is a more mindful, intentional practice for experiencing the Incarnate Christ, the presence of all that is Holy, especially in times like these.
I hope you can join me as I finish this Advent series, Still Christmas, with Rev Linda McDermott and we conclude our look at the four traditional hallmarks of Advent (Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy) in a fresh way (as Confidence, Courage, Curiosity, and Connection). This Sunday, December 20, in eleven:eleven, we’ll explore Connection as the expression and experience of deep Joy. Singer/Songwriter Elizabeth Wills joins us, along with Brad and the Band, Charme Roberts, and others!
I hope to see you then!
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven
“Our First Ever (and Last) eleven:eleven COVID 2020 Send-Off”
Wednesday, December 30, 7:00 – 8:00 pm
Join me, Brad, Charme, and about 100 or more of our eleven:eleven friends for a look back at our “Year of COVID” — the challenges and lessons learned, and the gifts we might take into the new year. We’ll share music, stories, and some of your thoughts and wishes as we raise a toast and say “farewell” to COVID 2020!” Watch your emails for more details!