These are the prayers that I wrote and prayed daily during Advent 2014. I was being stretched and molded, or shattered, according to my theology professor. I was emotional and delicate and slowly being pieced back together with a broader understanding of this God that I love so much, as well as the immensity of the love that this God has for this world. The world felt shattered too, in a way that I was uncertain if it was planning on piecing itself back together anytime soon. Two years later and I am still returning to these prayers for Mary, the young woman who carried God, and birthed God into this world, who raised God in her home, knowing that his existence in the world was threatened by powers that sought to subdue him.
This time of prayer taught me in a very tangible way, the power of lament in birthing hope. By Christmas I understood, perhaps for the first time what it means that tears can be healing, or that it is healthy to cry. I understood that the full range of our emotions can be used for good. To be honest about your frustrations, your fear, your sin, is to make room in your life and heart for growth and change; hope in a God made flesh.
I realize that these prayers will not be everyone’s cup of tea (and that is okay), but they might be what someone else needs this season, and so I decided to share them (with someone besides my mom).
Come Lord Jesus come.
Lord today hearts around the nation are heavy. Lord today we pray for Mary. We pray for Mary, who became a fugitive, an illegal immigrant in Egypt, with her newborn son, because a King was actively seeking his death. We pray for Mary, who was just a child herself, when she found herself unwed and pregnant. We pray for Mary who had to watch as the government murdered her little brown baby. We pray for Mary who had to listen as the crowds shouted “his death was justified” “he was a criminal, a thug, who deserved death.” We pray for all of the female bodies that understand the struggle of Mary, pregnant teenager, on the margins, frightened for the safety of her child, mother of God. Lord we pray for the mother of Michael Brown, who upon hearing that her dead son’s trial would never happen, and being told to calm down, screamed out in anguish, “Do you know what those bullets did to my baby’s body?!” She cries out with the mother of God, “Can you imagine those wounds?”
Lord we pray that this advent season will be a time when the grieving community finds hope in the resurrection. The birth of Jesus reminds us of the hope that we will see our loved ones again. It reminds us that death does not have the final word. But Lord we pray that we remember that Jesus was a body and we pray that we will learn to seek Jesus, vulnerable and crying in a dirty smelly stable, and worship at his tiny little feet. We pray that we will see your Kingdom in the most surprising of places and your face in the oppressed, and that we will become a people who stop oppressing. Come Lord Jesus come, Hear our prayers.
God do you look at our world and see hope? Where is it? Where is hope when black bodies are murdered and we call it justified? Where is hope, when we are half-heartedly apologetic and whole-heartedly invested in the legalities? Where is hope when dismiss the tears? You who took the dirt from the ground and breathed life into it, do you weep when we still treat humanity as dirt? God where are you? We are supposed to be waiting for your incarnation this advent season, waiting in anxious anticipation. Hopeful. But we are waiting in unrest. We are waiting in death. We are waiting in grief. We are more broken than we realized and we don’t know how to be your people. God we know that the plight of Mary, mother of God, is the plight of women of color in this country. To know that her baby is born vulnerable, exposed to political powers that seek to kill him. When Mary fled with her little brown baby to safety, did she know that one day he would be murdered as a criminal? Did she realize she would have to listen as the world shouted “he deserved it!?” God did she know that his bleeding body would become the sight of resurrection, of new life? Did she know that the death of her child would give birth to a church that was passionate about caring for those on the margins and setting the captives free? Did she know that his death would give life to a disruptive people who cry out “his death on the cross is the last on.” There shall be no more death.
Loving God who became flesh, these days I am at a loss for words. I smile and nod, as people tell me that conversations about social justice don’t belong in the church. I force the appropriate behavior of my youth to the surface as old white men tell me that they have a “knee jerk reaction” to my comparing your birth to any other birth. They tell me you are divine and that to bring you down to humanity, to be so low and comparable to us is tainting the gospel. I ask politely, “I’m sorry? Isn’t the fact that God became human, the entirety of the gospel?” He looks back, stunned that I would counter his clean-cut argument. He stands tall, “I just think you should know that some people are going to react to what you have to say.”
God how did we become this world? How did we become a place where it is okay to see our likeness in the suffering of Christ, in the bearing of the cross, but not in the joyous birth, or the flight from powers that seek to kill? God this advent we seem to be waiting for Jesus to come to earth just so we can remove him from it again. 2000 years later and we still don’t want Jesus to belong here. We still want him to be separate from us, too divine to relate to. God help us. Help us welcome Jesus as advent draws to an end. Help us welcome him with the hope that this time, we might ask him to stay.
Good and Gracious God, This is the week. This is the week of waiting. We are ready for the savior of the world, and yet we are all closing our doors to the one who bears your word inside of her. We still tell those searching for a place to belong, a place to sleep at night, that there is no room for them here. We tell them to find their own space. We wait anxiously unaware that as the week draws to a close the options are drawing fewer and Mary will end up in the slums, in the cave, thought of as little more than an animal. We send her to the margins. We will wait for a strong and mighty king, having no idea that you are changing the world through ten tiny fingers and toes. God we are still as blind as we were that night. God help us to have new eyes this year. Help us to see Jesus where he is, not where we want him to be. Help us to talk about our brokenness, because we are a broken church. We are a hurting people, and most days we don’t even realize it. We are waiting for the Christ-child, but we seem to always be waiting for something tidy and powerful, instead of bloody and dirty and vulnerable. We seek a silent night, and ignore the screams of a laboring mother. Bringing God into the world surely won’t come through silent piety, but we really want it to. God I ask that you just stop us. Stop us from seeking to make your incarnation something that is isn’t from the very beginning. God don’t let us simply make Jesus into the perfect role model for nice boys and girls, but rather let us really see the rebellious, rule-breaking, vulnerable, yet perfect body that he is. God let this year be different. We are waiting.