by Linda Klimach, Senior Warden
This month, in the Southwest skies just after sunset, a rare and amazing celestial event is happening; the closest visible ‘encounter’ between our two largest planets since 1622. Jupiter and Saturn, traveling in their separate orbits, will align in our view from Earth, a phenomenon called a planetary conjunction. Each evening up until December 21 the planets will seem to grow closer to each other until they appear to be at most a tenth of a degree apart, the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length. On the days following, they will ‘drift apart’. This is of course an optical illusion. Their orbits are in fact 400 million miles apart, more than 4 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun. But there they are! I can see them! Practically on a collision course!
So, what does this have to do with church? I think it is the perfect example of humans seeing a ‘reality’ that isn’t necessarily real. Our local experiences are limited by our senses and our incomplete understanding of other dimensions possibly involved. What we think we see is often so much less than the truth of the situation. And maybe this is something we need to take into consideration when contemplating the apparent chaos of our current lives.
Maybe there is a divine plan. Maybe God’s hand is still on the tiller even when we can no longer see the shore. Is there an alternative to our anger and panic at the current state of our state, our country, our world? Must we stay trapped in the certainty of our view?
Perhaps in this season of Advent, it is useful to consider the ‘reality’ of the Holy Family as they made their weary way to Bethlehem to be registered for the Roman census: Joseph, having been directed in a dream to marry his mysteriously pregnant fiancée (Matthew 1:20-21) and Mary, having acquiesced to Gabriel’s announcement of God’s favor (Luke 1:38), approaching the birth of her child in a foreign city with no family assistance. What understanding did they have of the “big picture”? The miracles in store? The glory amid the pain?
So as we sit quietly in the dark and light our Advent candles, can we borrow a little of their faith and release our fears and anxieties, accept that the planets will not collide, and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” [Proverbs 3:5-6]