Today’s find: Rumbustious

As Advent terminology goes, I suspect “rumbustious” wouldn’t make most people’s Top 10 list.

Heck, “rumbustious” probably doesn’t make the list any time of year, at least not for an American like me.

And perhaps that’s why the word stopped me in my tracks, when I was invited – during a day of reflection presented by King’s House – to apply it to the action of God that we celebrate each Advent and Christmas season.

rumbustious – ˌrəmˈbəsCHəs/ adjective. Informal • British

  1. boisterous or unruly

Joining us by Zoom, from Madrid, Fr. James Alison. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Sal Gonzalez OMI)

That our presenter – theologian Fr. James Alison – originally hails from Great Britain perhaps explains his affection for the word. And as he led us through familiar scripture passages in the Gospel of Luke, I had to admit he makes a good point: We often find God – and the people of God – coloring a bit “outside the lines” as they work their way through key moments of the Incarnation.

  • Mary, our Blessed Mother, visited by an angel.
  • Elizabeth, her kinswoman, recognizing (without being told) the presence of the Holy One in Mary’s womb.
  • Cousin John – later known as “the Baptist” – leaping for joy inside Elizabeth, as soon as Mary and her fetal Son enter the room.
  • Shepherds in the field, visited by still more angels – veritable hosts of angels.
  • Simeon and Anna in the Temple, filled with awe at the approach of an Infant – their hearts rejoicing in the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise of redemption.

Indeed: there’s very little about the story of the birth of Jesus that seems to go precisely by the book. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Because history shows that left to our own devices, we will inevitably muck things up. We’ll set our sights too low. We’ll embrace petty gods and impermanent idols that have no power to save us.

But this Jesus whom we await, our Emmanuel – he’s a rule-breaker. Or more precisely, he invites us into a life larger than we can imagine on our own – the fullness of creation. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims about the One who is to come,

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

So as we celebrate Gaudete Sunday in 2020, may we open our hearts to welcome Jesus in all his rumbustiousness…and may we all be blessed with a full measure of Advent joy!

Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Advent 2020: A time of waiting…for the Zoom to begin.

For more from Fr. James Alison about the treasure we have in Jesus and Mary, I recommend this article — Living the Magnificat — on his website:

Living the Magnificat

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “Today’s find: Rumbustious

  1. Joe Vilmain

    so i looked as well but guessed rambunctious before looking; once i noted British roots I was sure I was correct…imagine that? I have done some pondering on the reading and will have some questions for you, perhaps a different look at the same material…great to be in some sacred space, if only for a short time and even with limited understanding…pray you well John. Joe Vilmain

    • Right you are, Joe: I figure it’s a good day, anytime I get to expand my vocabulary AND gain an insight or two about the sacred mysteries!

  2. Mark Dean

    Nice post, John, and thanks for the mention of King’s House. I was sorry not to be able to attend all the talks, due to being in Provincial Council meetings via Zoom at the same time, but I am catching up with the recordings which Sal made available to me. (They are large files so I don’t know if he has figured how to send them by email… I am using a flash-drive he gave me.)

    We didn’t get the attendance we were hoping for, but I hope that for those who made it, it was worth their while. We had a couple of our regular retreatants in physical attendance, and I think it was a bit over their heads or more than they expected. I enjoyed seeing you at the third session for the question and answer session, near the end. (I was on break from Council Meetings by then.) Thanks for your contribution.

    I have just purchased two of Margaret Barker’s books… Christmas reading for sure!

    Happy Advent.

    • Aha! A mystery solved! I was wondering why Fr Sal seemed to be operating solo during the retreat. As for the day itself, I can imagine that could have been a bit overwhelming for anyone who’s not read Margaret Barker’s work, or heard James Alison’s presentations before. That said, I thought his Advent message was deeply satisfying: God desires great things for us…”rumbustious” things! And like Mary, we can open the door to those promises with our “yes”.

      Margaret Barker:

      Temple Theology: An Introduction

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: