Scripture: Luke 1:39-45 (The Visitation)
Advent is a season in our Christian system of timekeeping when we focus on the “already—not yet” quality of our faith. It’s also a time when our sacred stories measure time by what bodies need, not what empires need.
In the readings from the first week and in these readings, time is measured by women’s bodies in the process of bringing forth life. For some of us, pregnancy examples engage our physical memories; for some of us, it’s metaphorical. Whatever way we experience the pregnancy metaphors, they are in our sacred story to model agape love—a love born of generative self sacrifice, a love that is changeless despite changing circumstances.
At Sojourners in this season we are walking with Adam’s leadership into a practice of “Beloved Community.”
According to Josiah Royce whose work Dr. King studied intensively at Boston University, a Beloved Community must be able to help members form loyalties—or I’d prefer the word “fidelities.” A Beloved Community must be able to help members form loyalties.
Forming loyalties or fidelities, Royce believed, was a result of maturing and allowed for mature decisions on entering into Christ’s self-emptying love and sustaining that deep love and affection in good times and in bad.
Royce believed that as we mature and become more able to form loyalties, we become more able to find devotion to things larger than ourselves. And ultimately we are able to form a “beloved community.”
As fidelities form and mature sacrifices are made, then we begin to glimpse a beloved community forming outside ourselves.
But the beloved community is not something outside of us only.
An external beloved community can only come to mature fruition if we have a beloved community inside ourselves that is also maturing.
Royce said, “the self is a community, for the self is in part its memory, its history.”
In these readings for the second week of Advent, Mary and Elizabeth and Jesus and John are celebrating inner and outer beloved communities.
Mary and Elizabeth are showing their memories and histories in their bodies. Jesus and John are showing their present and futures in their bodies. Thus is the beloved community born within and without. Elizabeth recognizes this as “blessed.” The babies dance in greeting and recognition. The women sing their poetry to one another.
This past week we’ve listened to the Supreme Court debate where life begins, women’s right to bodily integrity and conscience, the role of the state, and exactly when a child becomes autonomous from its mother. We hold the Advent paradox that these “Solomon’s choice” debates are not the final word nor the deepest wisdom.
We also see white men congregating on the National Mall with an agenda that is an existential threat to people of color and anyone else who gets in their way as well as to a democratic way of organizing our society. These are Herod’s dogs snapping and straining their leashes.
The path we walk is full of shadows of death.
Advent is the season of “already—not yet.” The Christ light flickers and calls. Two candles shine for us now. And we say “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord’s promises to her would be fulfilled!”
To help my inner beloved community mature this Advent, I’ve been trying to spend a little time each day holding my body is stillness and safety and remembering: God loves me unconditionally. Every part of me is beautiful in God’s sight. All my selves—past and future—are God’s beloved community within. All my selves are safe and loved in the arms of God.
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Advent.
—Rose Marie Berger (delivered as a reflection to Sojourners staff on Dec. 7, 2021, with reading of the Visitation in Luke 1:39-45)