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👩🏽‍🍼Advent is About Mary

C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels
Dear Friends,
Happy Friday. I hope that your week has gone well and you’re staying safe. Between Covid-19 spiking out of control and having our new puppy, we are pretty well buckled down here at the Daniels household. We’re having fun playing with, learning about, and training “Magnolia.” This week, I got a book by the “Monks of New Skeete” about training a pup and it has been a really interesting read. I’d recommend it if you find yourself with a ball of fur this holiday season.
Today’s newsletter is about Mary and reading the Christmas story through her life and lens. Mary has often been overlooked and neglected out of reaction to perceptions about Catholic theology. If that is you, let me invite you to consider Mary’s story in a new light, as someone who was herself born with her back against the wall, and whose courageous faith gives us a strong witness to what God’s liberation looks like. Her prayer (and subsequent living out of that prayer) “the Magnificat” is one of the most liberatory prayers in the entire biblical text.
Query:
Where can prayer become movement for you this season?
Hold Fast to Thy Way,
Wess Daniels
Greensboro, NC (Haw River Watershed)

Reflection: Advent is About Mary
Black Madonna art print, Our Lady of Czestochowa
Black Madonna art print, Our Lady of Czestochowa
On the face of it, many Christians will be tempted to read the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus this advent the way we have read the text for generations, as “evacuation theology.” Wait and hope, and pray. God will come through and get us out of all the trouble we face. God will help us escape. As things fall apart, we will evacuate. This “evacuation theology” is out of the same book as the theology, “I won’t get COVID unless God wants me to get it.” Not only is this a bad theology, trivializing concrete human actions and responsibility “in the name of Jesus,” it is also a reading that privileges white, middle and upper-class, male perspectives and experiences. “If you do not like the way things are then the problem resides with you.”
It is true that if you are not: being brutalized, watching your schools defunded, having your land threatened by destruction and desecration, worrying about healthcare, having your water polluted, then you can afford to wait. Many of us have the luxury to sit back and pray with our words and not our feet. Our lives are not being threatened. If you have had the weight of history on your side you have “hope” in something to return to, because, again history was on your side. But if you were born with your back against the wall, under oppression or occupation, born without fanfare, appropriate housing, or the protection of city or state government, as was Mary’s infant, then your orientation would be quite different. Your prayers would sound far more like Mary’s than Paula White’s. In other words, in our Americanized reading of the birth narrative, Mary and Jesus are far closer to the White House and Wall Street, than they are to Standing Rock, Flint Michigan, Ferguson Missouri, or the AME Church in Charleston, SC.
This reading, while common, is deeply misguided. It would be to not only destroy the courage and profound faith we find in the story about Mary’s Day of Visitation and how she responded to Gabriel:
‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
Mary, a young Jewish woman living on occupied land, yet without child, a refugee and therefore even more vulnerable, was in a very real sense powerless — at least in terms of how “the world” measures such things. This is the person who offers “space for the uncontained space for God” that Denise Levertov speaks of. This womb of God born outside of class, racial, or educational privilege, born without rights, and hunted down by the government, would eventually be imprisoned, brutalized by Rome’s police and executed by the state. His birth is a concrete witness of God’s preferential option for the poor and disenfranchised in this world. His birth, life and death show which side of history God is on.
Advent begins a deep counter-narrative to Wall Street and the White House. Power and wealthy be damned: this baby comes on the edges of empire, in public housing and hidden from government authorities.
Mary is a model revolutionary of our time. She is a religious woman, persecuted and imprisoned by the Roman empire, and she is a political visionary. She does not separate the two, for her prayer (the “magnificat” - below) is not abdication, it is movement, it is real and radical change, and she knows that only with God’s help can things be turned around now.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in aGod my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1).
This year I am grateful for Advent because it reminds me that Mary’s work is not yet done; Mary’s work is still our work. While the moral arc bends towards justice, it requires hands and feet and moral imaginations to do the refracting. It also reminds me that we are not alone in these struggles, that we have a sister who, long ago and far away, took a step in courage and in faithfulness, and it turned out to be something far more revolutionary than she could have ever dreamed. It turned out to be a love that lifts up the lowly and tears down the mighty.
‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
❓Query for Personal Reflection
  • How has the Christmas story costs its original message and revolutionary tone?
  • What does it mean to recover the true nature of that story in our time?
  • Where can prayer become movement for you this season?
🐦 Tweet Thread of the Week
Carlos A. Rodríguez
Christmas is about believing what a woman said about her sex life.

Christmas is about a family finding safety as refugees.

Christmas is about a child in need receiving support from the wealthy.

Christmas is about God identifying with the marginalized, not the powerful.
🔗 Dress Down Friday Links
Mary and Other Displaced Brown Mothers | Sojourners
Mike's iOS 14 Widgety Home Screen – The Sweet Setup
Finding Our Way in Post-Trump America | Sojourners
Christian Nationalists Much More Likely to Reject Vaccine, New Study Finds | Sojourners
There's Rich, And There's Jeff Bezos Rich: Meet The World's Centibillionaires : NPR
📆 Upcoming Events
Panel 1: What is a Quaker pastoral theology, and how is it enfleshed/embodied in community?
Time: 8am PST / 11am EST Friday, December 11, 2020
Panelists: Ashley Wilcox, C. Wess Daniels, Oscar Lugusa Malande, Derek Brown, and Phil Baisley
💚🧠 Final Thought
“Annunciation” — Find it full poem here by Denise Levertov
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
☕️ Thank you for Supporting This Newsletter
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Thank you! -Wess 💚☕️
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C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels @cwdaniels

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Wess (Greensboro, NC)

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