Of Advent—and Spit

Oh, that’s just gross!  Why do you guys have to do that on the floor?

It was about this time of year, a few years past.  

My little brass group had just finished practicing and were quickly moving our chairs and stands off the stage.  The choir had a rehearsal scheduled right after us and we wanted to be out of their way.  The young man speaking was one of several moving equipment back into the space we were vacating.

I looked at the floor, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.  Quizzically, I looked at the young man.

He gestured in a wide circle, indicating spots of liquid standing in close proximity to where the chairs had been moments ago.

“This—this—spit!  What is it with brass players?”

He shuddered once for effect and turned away without waiting for an answer.  The instrumentalists around me who had heard the exchange laughed, a condescending dismissal of the young vocalist’s squeamishness.

Yes.  I want to talk about spit.  

It’s a conversation I’ve been waiting to have for many years.

No one has ever wanted to discuss the matter with me.  I wonder why that is.

Perhaps, I should begin by explaining the liquid which is left on the stage when wind players complete their performances or rehearsals. The liquid is not spit.  

That’s right.  Not spit.

It’s merely condensation.  It’s what occurs when you blow warm, moist air into a cold metal tube.  Almost exactly what happens when you enter a cold automobile on a winter’s evening.  The windows fog up.  Do you call that moisture on the windshield spit?  Of course not.

So.  The irate young man was wrong.  Only condensation—not spit.

But still, I would like to talk about spit.

On a day in the music store not long ago, a mother stood with her brood of children, awaiting her turn at the checkout.  She looked down at the oldest of the four urchins and noticed a black mark on his cheek.

Without hesitation, she licked her thumb and rubbed his skin.  The black mark didn’t disappear, but it was less noticeable than before.  

The same couldn’t be said for the young man’s indignation.

“Did you just put spit on my face?”  He sputtered in his frustration.  “Why would you do that?”

The mother’s attempt at an explanation was only met with more disgust, and the young man stalked out to the parking lot to await his family in solitude.  He turned his face to glare back at the group as he exited.  The black mark was still there—smudged, but very much in evidence.

My mind goes back again.  

I remember hearing the story when I was a child, not much older than that indignant young man.  You may find it in the book of John in the Bible. (John 9)

The blind man stood, as he always had, waiting for something.  Something.  But, he didn’t know what it was he awaited.  

He had always been blind.  From the day he had arrived, squalling and screaming, light had never passed from his eyes to his brain.  Never.

He didn’t ask for anything.  He just waited.

The Teacher let His followers argue the existential questions for a moment or two.  Why?  Who?  How?  

They were the wrong questions.

Jesus had been sent to bring light to the world.  Here was His big opportunity.  

Time to impress with big words and ostentatious prayers.  He would wave His hands in the air and—Wait!  What is He doing?

He spit in the dirt.  

Spit.  In the dirt.

Then He mixed up some mud and, hands filled with the gross mixture, stood and slathered the slimy stuff on the blind man’s unseeing eyes.

“Did you just spit in my eyes?”

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Healing_of_the_Blind_ManThe words aren’t recorded, but one wonders.  Did the man hear the Teacher spit on the ground?  His ears, acutely trained to be his guide since he had no eyes, must have heard.  They must have detected the sound of dirt being mixed with the spit, and then recognized the rustle of robes, as the Master stood again.

Did he back away, putting his hand up to keep the ghastly stuff off of him?

No.  He stood, listening to the Man speak, giving His instructions.  He went, still blind, and washed the mud from his eyes.  

What an astounding result!  

Light, pure and clear, streamed through the once useless orbs.  Familiar voices spoke to him and, for the first time in his life, he put faces with the voices.  

He saw his home!  And his family!

Light shone in darkness—just not in the way anyone would ever have anticipated.

Spit.  What a gross thing!  

Why would Jesus have used spit, of all things?  

I have no answer.

I do know this.  We who believe are even now in the time of year we call Advent.  


Waiting for the Salvation of God to appear.

Just a warning.  It won’t be pretty.

Or sanitary.

Not even a little sanitary.

A baby will be born in a barn, among the filth and stench.  Dirty shepherds will come, not clean and freshly bathed, but straight from the dust and filth of caring for their livestock.  Stinking and crusted with grime.

The end of the story won’t be any more sanitary.  Bloody and sweat-covered, nailed to a cross of wood, He will die.

It won’t be pretty.  It won’t be romantic.  It won’t smell good, with aromatic candles fluttering in the breeze.

The little boy in my store didn’t understand that his mom wanted only for him to be clean.  All he saw was the spit.

I wonder.  We’re waiting.  

With the blind man, we’re waiting—for light.

It might not be as pretty as we’d like.  Perhaps not as dramatic, either.

A baby who is born in a barn can’t be all that powerful, can He?

His light comes softly, and in unexpected ways.

His light comes softly, and in unexpected ways. Click To Tweet

I think I’ll stand here and wait.  




We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
(C.S. Lewis ~ British theologian/novelist ~ 1898-1963)



…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen,the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ~ NASB)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Of Advent—and Spit

  1. Perhaps Jesus used spit to make mud in order to show us that God can make the extraordinary happen through even the most mundane (and way gross) things, that we should be aware of His presence in everything.
    Waiting with you, Paul. Blessings!

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