Living into the Tension of Advent: Dr. J. Derek McNeil and Kate Davis

“How shall we live into this Advent season at such a time as this?”

Each year, the season of Advent invites us to lean into the story of God, to the tension and expectation that surrounds the birth of Jesus. This year, however, amidst a global pandemic and heightened racial tension, anticipation has become akin to a feeling of dread rather than a thing to look forward to with hope and excitement. How then, Rachael asks, are we to live into the season of Advent in this year? As she begins a series of conversations around this very question, today you’ll hear Rachael talk with Dr. J. Derek McNeil, President and Provost of The Seattle School, and Kate Davis, Director of Resilient Leaders Project, about this unique season of expectation and what it means for us to be truly embodied and co-regulated.


“It feels so risky to be embodied right now and it feels like we’re being invited to get in our bodies, because that is what anticipation requires is a kind of embodiment. But right now it feels as if all we’ve been anticipating is more hard news, more violence, more fear, more sickness, more loss, and so I want to spend some time stepping into this tension, this intersection, because I think there’s something about the embodied vulnerability of God coming to be with us that might inform ways we can join God at such a time as this.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“This is a funny season to be talking about the embodied nature of God, and that embodiment coming eventually to suffer and die, so the suffering part of that embodiment . . . I think I’ll have to struggle a little bit to stay in Christmas because it feels more like Easter.” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“I think of the Advent story of Mary knowing she’s carrying and she goes and visits Elizabeth, and I think of that journey as seeking out co-regulation. In some ways Mary’s body feels very risky . . .and she’s seeking out another person who can say I see you, I understand your experience, and I am right here with you, so in a sense we have a taste of the incarnation that’s coming in the interaction between these two women who say I’m already with you as God is on the way to be with us.” Kate Davis

“Co-regulation is not simply I have a body sitting next to a body, it is a sort of recognition about something that you are seen, that you belong, that something is bearing witness inside you with somebody else, a sense of connectedness.” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“I‘ve often found the complexity of these words we ponder in the Advent season: peace, joy, hope, and love, and their complexity and their nuance and their partners and sisters to them like lament and justice and truth-telling, and what it means to take actual stock of what’s around us to say we need each other but we need a God who is interested in co-regulation.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“It’s risky to be embodied right now. How do we risk in ways that are safe enough to get that co-regulation, that interactive care that we need?” Kate Davis

“Part of my management of the grief of now is to have gratitude for the history of the moment and draw back on memories of things.” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“I have found in this season, all the things we are holding, the polarization, the trauma, the election, COVID, I have found if I’m not able to let the tears come about how I wish things were, then I have a really hard time imagining what could be.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“The desire for a Savior is something that’s uniting us even as it’s tearing us apart and it has me wondering about Advent as a season to lean into those shared pieces of humanity even in those very different political identities which are not holding us well because it is not enough to hold us sufficiently.” Kate Davis

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