Fling wide the door

by Demi Prentiss

“Fling wide the door, unbar the gate!” The words of this Lutheran hymn (ELW 259) remind us that the essential work of Advent is opening – our gates, our doors, our hearts, our wallets, even our minds! God is doing a new thing, and perceiving it depends on our willingness to see or learn or do something new.

For some of us, flinging wide the door isn’t easy.  In the spirit of the homeowner who feels obliged to tidy up the house before the house cleaners come, we would just as soon keep the door closed until everything is “just right” – for guests, of course. And, if we’re willing to admit it, for Jesus as well. We’ll wait until we have the dust bunnies and the clutter under control before we feel comfortable letting God in to see where we live – including our hearts. It’s hard to admit that putting up a false front is a useless exercise when we’re talking about God: The One who’s nearer than breathing already knows how messy our lives are, behind our brave façade.

God already knows that inviting God – as vulnerable infant or as powerful spirit – into our lives means doing something that forces us to loosen control – stepping out of our comfort zone.  The Advent remembrance of that vulnerable child born in Bethlehem can offer us a glimpse of the power of vulnerability. God’s experience as a human being helps us remember that, as Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “To be alive is to be vulnerable…. When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability” (Walking on Water, 1980).

Brené Brown, self-described as a “storyteller/researcher,” has dedicated much of her life to understanding vulnerability. She is careful to distinguish vulnerability from compliance or weakness and to point out that vulnerability is a demonstration of courage. In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, she writes, ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Because vulnerability is inescapable, she urges us to practice it intentionally. “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

My prayer for all of us choosing to walk this reflective journey of Advent is that we may claim vulnerability – incarnate in the Son of Man – as a source of courage to dare greatly and to invite transformation.  As Brown urges, may we dare to “show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”  May God open us to receive the gifts of the Incarnation.

“Fling wide the door, unbar the gate!” And the Lord God Incarnate will come in.

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