Thursday, November 30, 2017

"All Creation Waits" - An Advent Book Recommendation

Though we Quakers normally eschew recognizing "holy-days," believing as we do, that no day is more holy than any other, I must confess that Advent is my favorite of the liturgical seasons. I love the poetry, songs, art, and anticipation of this special time -- the hope that it embodies.

Still, as a Friend, I remain fully rooted in the sacramental potential that each day's quotidian activities afford. Hence the title of my blog -- "Holy Ordinary." So I was delighted to receive a copy of All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings.

In this delightful book by Gayle Boss (illustrated by David G. Klein) the wonder of advent is unveiled in a fresh way through the most natural life of this world -- that of God's humblest creatures.  Boss takes us into the very heart of humble words of Romans 8:22 that "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." We humans far too often make Christian faith all about us -- seeing ourselves as the pinnacle of life on earth. Boss's book reminds that we are a part of the "whole creation" and that advent is a "mystery of new beginnings."

Instead of wise men, shepherds, or even sanitized sheep of most congregational Christmastime crèches, we are invited into the world of chipmunks, raccoons, wild turkeys, lake trout, and even snakes (who often get little respect from Christians who have a memory of a certain serpent in Eden).  Boss opens her introduction with a quote from Meister Eckhart:

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.

Every creature is a word of God.

If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature–
even a caterpillar–
I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God
is every creature.

She then takes us into worlds of burrowy, hibernating, downy anticipation of new creation.  Her short meditations reveal the peace and grace of the wild things that are as surely a part of God's creation as are we. Boss presents us with stories of hope amidst the animals' realities of cold, predators, and privation of the season. Realities that many of us, wrapped in a warm houses filled with food and family, forget. Our biggest discomforts rarely amount to first world inconveniences.  Yet, much of the world identifies with realities faced by our animal friends. We would do well to do so, as well. They remind us that many of us live in a consumer society that has us dangling a hair's breadth from economic disaster -- and that death and despair can stalk even we comfortable middle class Americans. And yet, there is still a hope that is eternal. Advent and Boss's meditations remind us of that.

Wendell Berry once wrote:
When despair for the world grows in me
 and I wake in the night at the least sound
 in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 
I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

All Creation Waits takes us into the peace -- and grace and hope -- of wild things and the mystery and blessing of Advent. You'll want to get a copy for you, your family, and others you love.

© Wendell Berry. "The Peace of Wild Things" is excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry.