an advent reading list
essays and ikons for the advent season from me and my friends
What Happened When Joseph Brought Mary Home? (Sojourners, 2022)
Sarah used more focus to sweep her home than most butchers use when cutting with a knife. Every bit of dirt was swept away by her broom as she prepared the house for the guests coming to town for the census. She needed to preoccupy her mind. She couldn’t begin to think about what would happen when they came. Miryam, on the other hand, was looking forward to guests coming and was “helping” her aunt Sarah with the chores. Miryam was doing more talking than helping, but Sarah didn’t mind. That is, until Miryam began asking questions.
“Are they staying here?” asked Miryam.
Sarah coyly responded, “Who?”
Miryam stared blankly at her. “Joseph and Mary.”
Sarah didn’t hesitate: “No.”
Mary the Archprophet (Church Anew, 2022).
Of course, I knew that it is only because of the risen Christ's active work in the world that communion with Mary could ever be possible. Theologically, I understood that Christ was the one, true mediator who calls us to Him in covenantal relationship (Hebrews 9:15). It was Jesus Christ who “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:5-11) so that we might “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). While my Catholic siblings joined in elevating Mary as mediatrix ad Mediatorem or co-redemptrix, I couldn’t do the same.
So, who, then was Mary?
I believe that, through her rightful veneration as Thetokos, Mary is the archprophet—bringing forth and bearing witness to God’s light and truth into the world.
What Mary Didn’t Know (Sojourners, 2021)
Mary comes from a tradition of faithful people in the Bible who honestly question God. Whether it is Moses initially refusing God’s call to free the Hebrews from slavery, the Psalmist’s lamentations, or Jeremiah likening God to a “deceitful brook,” Mary, too, has pointed questions for God.
God makes ample space for these questions and doubts in the kingdom.
Smile in the Mystery (Fathom Magazine, 2020)
“Invisible the hope grows in the black where nobody knows; we smile in the mystery, in the night where nobody sees.”
John Mark McMillan repeats this bridge in the title track of the album “Smile in the Mystery.” The line represents a prevalent theme throughout the album: celebration and embrace of a mysterious God who has made himself known to us.
Yet, for many Christians today, McMillian’s words are easier sung than practiced. Most Christians in the West do not find themselves smiling in the mystery. In my own tradition of Evangelicalism, we have pounded our theological fist demanding rational, logical, empirical answers from our triune God.
This Common Life is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Essays from Friends:
Advent for the Clinically Depressed: Meditations on Vulnerability and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency,()
This Advent, as I reflect on the decisions that quite literally saved my life a year ago, I recognize that they all depended on embracing my vulnerability and welcoming the reality of my interdependence to the rest of creation.
Why ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ is a Radical Christian Classic, Mitchell Atencio (Sojourners)
You might be thinking to yourself: “Sure, Mitchell, all versions of A Christmas Carol have the same lessons on greed, capitalism, and righteously haunting the rich into repentance,” but that is where you would be wrong. While Dickens wrote a classic, the Muppet cast took it to another level. Few other takes on this yuletide film have such unique insights into what it takes to build a beloved community. Plus, nowhere in Dickens’ version does Rizzo yell: “Light the lamp, not the rat! Light the lamp, not the rat!”
"The Babe That I Carry Carries Me:” Mary, Christ, and Nourishment in Ephrem the Syrian's 'Hymns on the Nativity, Emma Yeager ()
Ephrem the Syrian’s hymnography depicts Mary as the first nourisher of Christ at his birth while also creating a paradoxical scene of Christ as the eternal nourisher of Mary.
“The Babe that I carry carries me.”
advent and the miracle of earth's resurrection, Yanan Melo ()
Advent is remembrance — a remembering of Christ’s first coming as the salvation of the world in the small and fragile body of an infant. It still awes me how the fullness of God was found breastfeeding in the arms of a poor, Nazarene woman named Mary in first-century, Jewish Palestine. That is nothing short of a miracle.
However, it seems that our world today is lacking in miracles. As we watch the headlines that appear on our social media feeds, we are quick to find that many injustices continue to ail our modern predicament. The continual onslaught of mass shootings across the U.S., the discovery of possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine, and the militaristic suppression of civilian protesters in China — all these evidence the global violence that pervades our world today.