Advent clay

I once sat on the floor at the feet of two clay masters–a mother and son who are from the Pueblo nation.  They had placed into my hand some of their precious clay which they had dug from the face of a cliff on their reservation.  I fumbled and pressed the lump, pushed and pinched, rolled and squeezed, smoothed and scratched with my fingernail, managing to evoke a rather unremarkable turtle.  They, on the other hand, carved and cut, twirled and molded.  The mother shaped an owl and did most of the speaking instruction.  The son took a sharp edge and spun a vase with exquisite spirals…a pattern he sells for thousands of dollars. I know because I later saw one of his creations shimmering in a store front window in Santa Fe.  On the day I was seated at his feet, however, the curved lines weren’t right and he smashed it before my eyes.  The inexperienced child in me gasped.  As for my turtle, it didn’t look like much, so I rolled it into a ball and handed it back at the end of the instruction.  I am not a potter.

But God is a potter. Listen to this verse from the first reading for the first Sunday of Advent, November 27. 

Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

What do potters and clay have to do with advent?  In the advent season our worship says that the world certainly needs God’s shaping to become the creation of peace and good will that God intended.  Much of it is broken.  In advent we are also called by the prophets to notice the cracks and lumps in ourselves and repent.  But repenting can only go so far in fixing the world or ourselves.  In the end the Potter must take over and mold us into a new creation.  And here’s the advent promise: God the Potter has been so intent on bringing this clay creation to wholeness that the Potter came to live inside the clay when Christ became human flesh. Now that’s incredible, isn’t it?  The Potter becomes clay and works from within….that’s Christmas !

Find yourself a clay pot and into it put a card or paper with the above verse written on it.  Then place the pot on a table or desk where you will see it every day in advent.  Whenever you notice it, whisper this advent prayer:  

You are the Potter; I’m not.
Work within me, your clay, today.