We are in the last week of the season of the Advent. Christ is coming...Christ has come...Christ will come again! Something I’ve noticed over the years of celebrating Advent in the church is that it’s so much about preparing for Christmas; I think we often forget to prepare for the Advent of Christ in our regular lives, too. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “big deal moments” of life; birthdays, Easter, New Year’s, Christmas. Yet, Christ comes in the mundane, regular and daily moments of life as well.
An example: When we picture Christmas Eve, and especially when we celebrate it, we certainly pick out the most poignant moments, the most beautiful sentiments, and a lovely, picturesque nativity scene, soft and peaceful don’t we...Mary gazing down at a quiet sleeping newborn, Joseph keeping watch in a clear, starry night, a room full of apparently adoring animals non-pulsed that a baby has replaced the food in their food trough, and the light of a star shining down so directly that the baby is basked in a heavenly glow. But when you really think about it, birth is pretty common, pretty messy, pretty painful, and not very peaceful at all!
Someone recently joked with me and wondered aloud “Why don’t we ever see the real thing; Jesus Christ CRYING (not lying) in the manger, animals mucking around smelling as they do and looking for the food that’s NOT in their manger but likely scattered all over the floor, Joseph trying to figure out how he can help and being a totally clueless new dad, Mary exhausted, sweaty, covered in all the things after birth with no running water to clean up. This is not the picture of the song “Away in a Manger,” but do we REALLY expect that Jesus didn’t cry?!?! In fact, if he wasn’t making a sound, we’d likely be a little worried. But, of course if he WAS making a sound we’d be worried too; because we’d be new parents worrying about every breath, every cry, every wiggle. This is exactly the daily and mundane that Jesus is born into, and if we believe that Jesus was truly human, Jesus had many mundane, or at least regular, days all throughout his life too.
One of my favorite songs from the 90’s was by a singer named Rich Mullins, titled “Boy Like Me” in which Rich sings about Jesus as a boy, wondering if he cried in the early morning, wrestled with a dog and let it lick his nose, got scared playing hide and seek, or cried when he scraped his knee. These are the regular, daily things that make us human...just as Jesus was human. And so it is fitting that we remember the regular things, too, and not make Christ’s coming only about the picture perfect or set apart times of life, since most of life isn’t picture perfect, set apart, or even special.
The season of Advent, even in the best of Christmas preparations, isn’t picture perfect either, though we try so hard to make it that way. We have work to do, meals to make, children to care for, cars that break, faucets that leak or freeze, and chores to finish...the list goes on and on in our regular lives during Advent just as much as in the wrapping and decorating and baking and parties. Perhaps that’s why gathering at church on regular Sundays and not just special occasions is a good thing to do. Perhaps gathering on regular Sundays is a helpful way to remember and celebrate the Advent of our Lord in the daily and mundane parts of life, and not just the holidays - holy days. (Isn’t it funny how we only call these special times of the year “holidays” or holy days, when in fact, holy is in every moment of our lives?)
I LOVE the season of Advent...maybe even more than Christmas. I love the waiting and the special anticipation and recognition that we make in the church that Christ is coming. I think that may be because Advent is a symbol of how our lives are to be lived every day...in anticipation and hope that Christ is come, and coming. I wish we could remember in our more secular culture that Christmas doesn’t actually END on Christmas Day, but actually begins and continues for 12 more days until Epiphany. Wouldn’t it be grand if we spent all those 12 days AFTER the birth of Christ celebrating, especially since in real life, everything really ramps up AFTER the baby is born rather than before? Wouldn’t it be nice to always light our lamps, to always be waiting and watching, and to find Christ in the everyday?
Peace to you this final week of Advent; peace to you this Christmas. And, may you find the peace of Christ not only in the celebration of these times, but in the regular, imperfect and mundane moments too, as God come to be with us, not only on Christmas, but each and every day.