December 11th: On Posture and Breath

The difference between worry and anticipation is, I think, a matter of posture.

They both do the same thing, right? They both wait in expectation for that *thing* to arrive, whatever it may be. One posture, back straight with dread, brow furrowed, is defensive. The other, back straight with alertness, brow flat because the eyes are squinting into the horizon looking for what’s next…a welcoming stance.

Advent is a season where we try out anticipation for a little while as our dominant posture. And, yes, I realize that in this pandemic year all kinds of worry has probably devolved into despair and depression rather than pensive fret. But, if there’s still a bit of worry left in your body, perhaps allow your body to adjust a bit, and see if your heart doesn’t follow.

Squint, Beloved, and see the hope on the horizon.

A vaccine? Yes. Sure. But more than that.

Hope, that this Advent will usher in a change that has eluded you (all of us?) in years prior, because though we talk about wanting to “get back to normal,” we get to decide what parts of our former normalcy we bring with us in a post-pandemic world.

And that’s beautiful.

For Christians the coming of Christ (continually arriving if you trust the incarnation) is an ushering in of a new way of being. Not just a “go and sin no more” (John 8:11), but more-so “the rocky ways will be made accessible” and “the pits of despair will be filled with blessing” (Isaiah 40).

And this Advent we might actually have a little shot of seeing it, by God.

Mary Oliver, my favorite spiritual agnostic who is undoubtedly closer to the Divine than most followers of religion, has some thoughts on the posture of worry in her little poem (appropriately titled) “I Worried.”

She writes:

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

So sing, Beloved.

Sing, “O come, O come Emmanuel” and then squint to look for it!

And while you’re singing, add Ingrid Michaelson’s “Keep Breathing” to your Advent playlist. Take a listen, breathe, and anticipate.

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