Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent 2013


             Each year, my family kicks off the Christmas season with the annual viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving evening.  With plates full of leftovers, we all sit down ready to see if Clark Griswold will be able to accomplish his holiday wish -- the perfect, old-fashioned, family Christmas.  Clark, played by Chevy Chase, dreams of family Christmas perfection which includes all of the grandparents and children being together, Christmas decorations visible from space, a larger-than-life turkey, a snowy-white Christmas morning, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Although his wife Ellen warns him, "Clark, you set standards that no family event could ever live up to," Clark presses onward.  Unfortunately, Ellen is right.  The imported, Italian twinkle lights do not burn, the tree is destroyed by a dog-and-squirrel duo, unexpected cousins arrive in their RV, and Clark's Christmas bonus is a year-long subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.  As Clark's ideal Christmas vision unravels before his eyes, he realizes he did not leave room in his plan for the unexpected.

So it often goes when we attempt to plan perfection.  In our defense, we want the best for our families, friends, and selves, especially when it comes to Advent and Christmas time.  However, despite our best efforts, we just can't prepare for everything.  I wonder what it would have been like had we set out to design that first Christmas and Jesus' introduction to the world.  How would we plan for Jesus to come?  What would He wear?  Where would we take Him and what would we do?  Who would He speak to first?  Would He even be a he?  Certainly we would endeavor for excellence in our presentation of God to the world, but such a presentation would probably not involve a stable as a crib, a donkey as a cradle companion, or myrrh as an appropriate baby shower gift.  Our plan would likely not even involve a baby, but a majestic, powerful being much unlike ourselves. 

But we didn't make the plan, God did.  And God chose a stable, an unwed, teenage girl, a simple carpenter, a donkey, and a weak, helpless infant to enter the world and show us how we might live perfectly.  Perhaps we can set out this Advent season to live and prepare not for what we see as perfect, but what God sees as perfect -- for those two things may not be the same.  May we leave room in our traditions, old and new, for the unplanned and unexpected, for something different than our own definition of perfect.  And may we be prepared to work and live and minister with whatever surprising circumstances come our way because, traditionally, that is how God seems to come to us.

- Lauren Colwell



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