Wednesday, December 22
When the theme for this year's Advent booklet was announced, I was taken aback. "When God became a child," I thought. What a spare, stark formulation.
For weeks now, I've struggled with this phrase for the great, transcendent coming of God to humankind. It's one thing to summon up a Christmas card painting of Mary's sweet babe in a manger. It's another to contemplate the God of the universe as a human child. I like those tee-shirts that proclaim, "God is the Big Bang." But understanding that the Big Bang humbled himself and became man requires a great deal of us, doesn't it?
If we are truly spending these Advent days preparing for the Incarnation - preparing to celebrate the historical reality of a 2000-year-old event and the coming of God anew into our lives - we better get busy.
As a kid, I enjoyed reading about Christmas customs in other parts of the world. I especially remember reading about Eastern European countries where preparing for the birth of Christ required vigorous cleaning of house and barn alike. Across the snowy landscape, ordinary folk swept and scrubbed their houses and spread fresh hay in the stables to prepare for the miracle of Christmas Eve.
Perhaps this year, instead of plunging headlong into the Christmas rush and the frenzy of shopping, wrapping, and partying, we need to spend more time sweeping out the corners of our hearts and souls and grappling with the great miracle of God entering human time and existence. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," cried John the Baptizer. In the contemporary language of The Message, "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
I've read or heard somewhere that the history of the world hinges on a stable door in Bethlehem. But the drama doesn't stop there, for our own individual histories as well as our todays and tomorrows depend on opening the door of our hearts and minds to the Incarnate God.
In Matthew's Gospel, John challenged those who came to him for baptism, "It's your life that must change...Is it green and blossoming?" (Matthew 3). The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. As Eugene Peterson writes, "The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness..." (John 1).
Are we ready for the Life-Light? Have we scrubbed and swept our hearts? Is the door open wide?
Are we blooming yet?
- Ashley Williams