Instead of the usual Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, I have chosen different words for each week in Advent this year.
A few weeks ago Fred and I had a Groupon for a restaurant in the Vancouver’s West End. We arrived an hour early so we could go for a walk. I thought we’d stroll along English Bay, look out on the ocean, the ships in the harbour, and the Lions and the other snow-capped north shore mountains. But Fred wanted to “poke, and sniff, and smell” as he says, down Davie Street. So we did.
The first thing I noticed was the rainbow flag painted on crosswalks, awnings, and banners. Rainbow decals were on the doors and windows of the shops and restaurants. Everywhere I looked I heard, “You are welcome here, just as you are!” I felt a warmth in my chest and the beginning of tears.
Our route took us past two churches. The doors of St. Paul’s Anglican were open, and there was a labyrinth inside. Central Presbyterian didn’t look like a church at all. The original building had been demolished and a high-rise apartment tower was built in its place. The church uses the ground floor for their gatherings and outreach ministries and the floors above provide affordable housing for seniors.
We passed a community garden, folks walking their dogs, and others dressed up and in a hurry. I smelled pizza, marijuana, and earth, freshly dug from a huge hole in the ground—no doubt for the foundation of yet another high-rise. I heard a First Nations man shouting for a long time but couldn’t follow what he was saying or to whom. No one seemed to be listening.
“Alfred lives around here somewhere,” I said to Fred. Alfred DePew is another spiritual director and writer I know. I was still savouring the book he just published, Odalisque, a novel about Thérèse, an orphan, artist, and prostitute living in Quebec City after WWII. I loved how Alfred was able to see the beauty and sacredness of her life and tell her story.
A section of a side street was converted into Jim Deva Plaza. Chairs and tables were set out near a bright pink and blue megaphone, four metres in diameter. The inscription inside invited those who have had no voice to find theirs and use it. Once again I felt moved. God sees the suffering of those who are marginalized. Grace has spilled onto the streets. For God knows, many are too hurt, too angry, or too afraid to enter a church. So God paints rainbow flags, arranges chairs, and inclines an ear to them. And God inclines churches, writers and spiritual directors to listen to their stories and welcome them into the kingdom.
It all comes from a deep yearning God has to connect with us.
With That Moon Language
Everyone you see, you say to them,
Of course you do not do this out loud;
someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
this great pull in us
Why not become the one
who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon
what every other eye in this world
is dying to
* * *
Some Advent Love Mischief:
- What yearning do you share with God? How do you experience it?
- How have you seen God’s kingdom come? Where do you still yearn for God’s kingdom to spill onto the streets?
Enjoyed your perspective on the downtown scene. Some of the things we see can be bewildering or intimidating, but you demonstrate the ability to observe God at work in countless different ways.
Thanks Pat. And you, as well, in your writing. Have a blessed Advent.