With Ancient Women

I find myself, these days, unexpectedly in conversations with ancient women I never met.

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I’m about to stand up and speak about Leah, the one Jacob didn’t want, and I stop and have a whispered conversation with her.

Not exactly to her or with her. But I hold her in my heart – hoping I will do her justice, this ancient grandmother of my Messiah.

I’m stitching thousands of words at the moment and they all belong to women. It’s a big project and it will take me a long, long time but it’s transforming me too.

Right now, it’s reminding me things like, the first person to name God is a slave woman. Isn’t that so beautiful? In the light of sexism and racism and all the awful things that people say about the rejected and the downtrodden, God, of all the universe, allows Godself to be named by a woman, a slave, sent out into the desert to watch her baby die.

Wherever your heart is at today. However you are struggling or rejected or looking at the tsunami of insurmountable opposition remember the One who has always held out hands, and noticed and listened and allowed the outsider to speak aloud the sacred name.

courage dear heart, courage

Miriam Jessie x

 

Included

Whilst it might be an inaccurate portrayal, I love the traditional image of the nativity.

 

The young parents gazing in wide-eyed wonder at the babe wrapped in strips surrounded with straw, the sheepish looking shepherds, the regal looking astrologers, the animals calmly giving balance to the scene.

What strikes me most though is the inclusiveness of the characters who marked the arrival of the One who came for all.

We discount ourselves too easily from the wanted ones, the ‘in crowd’, the chosen. But here, marked out by thousands of artists over the years, we are given a picture of inclusiveness.

The astrologers – foreign, wise, rich, educated, (probably) older.

The shepherds – common, poor, local, at the bottom of the society at the time.

The parents – young, middle of the road kids of their culture, under the rule and oppression of another culture.

It’s hard not to find some common ground with someone there.

Yet, at the birth all were considered welcomed guests, heralds and invited attendants, excited, terrified, wondering….

Maybe that’s something we need to catch, to be, to receive ourselves – the wonder, excitement and awe of LOVE come down.

 

Maybe we need to remember today that we are included.

No matter how on the edges, how different, how diverse our understanding, our aspirations, our experiences – we are all included.

there is room for us all in that stable 

there is room for us all at the table

Because the Word came once, for all.

So, when He returns it will be for all.

Let this inclusiveness be ever in our hearts. Let it shape our Adventing. Let us be people who see the foreign, the lowly, the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the young, the old…. let us see them all as they are, as we ourselves are – dearly loved, invited in, accepted and called to go and be the heralds of a new coming, a kingdom where all are included and loved.

Lord, as I stand and gaze at a baby in a stable may I be ever reminded, that as I am included and invited in, I am called to do likewise; to make room for the ones who are similar and dissimilar to me, to not buy in to fear, to prejudice, to inferiority or superiority. Help me to look down and see the ground we share together and to always be ready to make room on the patch I occupy for another one.

 

the sounds of Bethlehem

It happened when my first child was small. A bundle of beauty at about 7 months old – all the joy of my life. We sat Christmas morning in a family members church – a beautiful building, built in a time when parishioners were expected to sit quietly and mod-cons weren’t included.

My perfect bundle started to wiggle and make noises, and there wasn’t a modern nursing room to retreat to or even an easy retreat, that didn’t involve clanking sounds on wooden floorboards and pushing past people in the narrow row. I sat in that unfamiliar church on Christmas morning feeling uncomfortable, feeling a perceived disapproval from the mainly older congregation.

Then words from the front diverted from the liturgy and planned delivery.

‘Isn’t it nice to have the sounds of Bethlehem in the church this morning.’

and I can’t even write those words without tears filling my eyes 9 years later.

advent cover option

 

To be so wholly welcomed, so valued, so included when we weren’t the expected demographic in that particular place.

The grace of those words.

The echo of those words speak so deeply into my own heart-beat for the church.

There is room for everyone.

I so want to be the balm of those words to other weary travellers… to people squirming in the seat, to people unsure if there is a space for them, to people who just feel like they don’t fit the demographic.

I think about that first Christmas – the smells, the sounds, the outcasts, the angels…. the sounds of Bethlehem aren’t perfect choirs with hours of practise, amazing stain glassed windows and perfectly vaulted ceiling arches. As much as I love those things, the sounds we are called to first are the mucking in despite the lack of harmony, sticking at it in discord, welcoming whatever odd sounds we might find ourselves surrounded by.

The sounds of Bethlehem are broken, wonder-filled, imperfect people gathering around an unexpected manger at a rescue mission delivered in a tiny little bundle.

It seems to me we could all of us be those grace words today.

Those words that say – I’m glad you’re here, you are welcome.

Let’s be grace words to weary souls today. Let’s be wildly abundant with our love. Let’s be kind and gracious and generous in our welcome even if it disrupts our plans.