Advent meditation for 6 December 2016

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Annunciation, by James Tissot. I love it when the angels are weird.

I’m a fairly patient person; waiting isn’t painful to me as long as I know what it is I’m waiting for. When I don’t know what’s coming—when all I know is that it’s something big, something with the potential to shake up my life, something that might go easier if I were able to prepare for it but I can’t prepare for it because I don’t know what it isthat’s when I get anxious.

Most of the time, Advent is, to me, precisely what it’s “supposed” to be—a season of joyful anticipation. This year is a little different. I don’t know where I’m going to be living come Christmas. I don’t know what kind of world I’m going to be living in come January. There are no Christmas decorations up in my house this year. I spent the entire month of November in another state, and I feel like I abruptly skipped from All Hallow’s to Advent without any breathing space between. I usually think of “waiting” as something you want to be over as soon as possible. But the dread you experience when something is barreling down the pipeline towards you at far too fast a clip, that’s part of waiting too.

This year, for a number of reasons, the waiting of Advent is, to me, the kind of waiting that doesn’t last long enough. Like, if Christmas could get here in two months instead of three weeks, that would suit me just fine. If time in general could slow and stretch, I would be into that. I always feel like things are happening a little too fast. I react to all change like it’s a change for the worse. A daily dose of dread is a normal part of my life.

The way practically everyone tells the annunciation story, Mary’s complete submission to “God’s will” gets emphasized over everything else. But even if humble obedience really was her chief reaction to being told by an angel that a divine fetus was about to be magically implanted in her body, I’m sure that wasn’t the whole of it. I know that if I were in Mary’s shoes, I would definitely be wondering about the nature of the holy infant I was carrying. Like, how does “divinity” express itself in a baby? Is this kid going to be speaking in complete sentences with the authority of God the Father straight out of the birth canal? Is he gonna have wings? You’d have to pause, considering the possibilities.

I don’t think the Bible indicates whether Mary’s pregnancy lasted the full term of a normal human pregnancy, but let’s assume it did. For eight months, Mary could treat all those questions as theoretical, but around the beginning of month nine, I bet she felt the glare of metaphorical approaching headlights. No doubt she was full of tender maternal joy, just like all the stories say, but if there wasn’t a little dread mixed in there too, I would be very surprised.

I find all of that sort of comforting. When December 1st rolled around last week and I didn’t feel like dragging out my mini-tree, I felt like I was ruining the holiday season. But I feel less that way now. The darkness that wraps around the northern hemisphere in December makes dread practically a biological imperative. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s fine that I sometimes look at the birth of Christ and see an event rivaling the Second Coming in its fear and uncertainty. The word has turned upside down many, many times. The here-and-now has always been someone’s apocalypse. Advent is the prelude, not just to the miracle of the incarnation, but to the ministry of the man who gave us fair warning that he came to bring not peace but a sword. The dread is probably a gift of some kind. I just have to figure out what to do with it.

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Annunciation, by Rose M Barron. I love everything about this, but especially the skeptical look on Mary’s face.

Nostalgia: On the 15th Anniversary of 9/11

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If only I had known that I was growing up in the nineties while I was doing it. I remember being afraid of war as a child; my father fought in Vietnam, and I was told often by my mother that it had “changed” him in some mysterious ways. A precocious history student, I had read books about the Holocaust and the Russian Revolution. I had a haunting sense of what life during wartime might be like; it happened in a world that was like my own, but subtly off in the unheimlich way of a bad dream.

I must have assumed that we lived in a time past war, or else in one of those golden gaps in history where nothing especially horrible happens to anyone who looks like you for entire decades at a time. Had anyone told me that we were living a small sliver of a gap between the Cold War and the age of terrorism, my teenaged dreams for the future would have shaped themselves differently, I think.

I don’t know how long it was after 9/11 before I started wondering when it would be over. I just know that the early 2000’s would have been much worse for me if I had realized that my bedrock underlying assumption, that there was a time not too far off when it would be over, was entirely mistaken.

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Companion Piece: Women Celebrating the Humans, Aliens, and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who

Hey guys! Do you like Doctor Who? Intelligent, thoughtful essays about women’s contribution to science fiction and television? Or maybe just my writing? I mean, I assume you like my writing at least a little. I’m not being cocky, but you are reading this blog. I assume no one’s holding a gun to your head.

(If someone is holding a gun to your head, I’m so, so sorry. Be strong. I don’t post very often.)

For the very first time, in the very near future, you can pay money to read words that I have written! Specifically, words that I have written in co-operation with my dear friend Liz Barr (who also co-edited the book. We wrote “The Heroine of Her Own Story”, which examines Ace and the seventh Doctor’s relationship over the course of seasons 25 and 26 in the light of a YA narrative. There are also tons of other fascinating essays, as you can see by perusing the newly released Table of Contents.

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The book isn’t properly out yet, unless you’re going to Gallifrey Con in LA in February, where you can get preview copies. This is just a foretaste of things to come. It isn’t stopping me being excited, though, and it shouldn’t stop you either!