The Promise of Advent
In Advent we are called to take the risk of birth. We can avoid such a practice by over scheduling ourselves, an easy feat this time of year. We can avoid such a practice by making our way through the season singing the familiar carols. But we are called to take the risk of birth. This might lead us to make room in our own lives for the stranger who comes in the form of the Christ Child.
The fulfillment of the promise of Advent is the celebration of Christmas. This grounds our belief in the Incarnation, the word made flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1) We are more familiar with the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, which focus on Joseph and Mary, respectfully; from these accounts we recall the dreams and visions, the birth of Jesus and the manger, the gifts of wise men and the praise offered by shepherds.
The story of Christ’s birth is told in somewhat different fashion, however, in the Gospel of John. The central message of early Christianity, the Incarnation , was scandalous, especially to the Gnostics, who would not believe that God would take human form. This core Christian belief, that God enters into the material world of human flesh, takes on an ironic meaning at Christmas. We are often urged to avoid, protest, and rebel against the creeping materialism of the season; we are encouraged, instead, toward more “spiritual” pursuits. Such advice is ironic in light of the essential meaning of Christmas: that Jesus is the incarnation of God, the word become flesh.
What might it mean for us, during the season of Christmas, to fully embrace the Incarnation? We might begin to see our material acts of gift-giving as occasions to express human love, or gifts of charity as demonstrations of our faith ad representative ministries. We can envision our participation in the material world as a response to a God who comes to live among us, and calls us to follow Jesus.
I read a story by Jeannie C. Williams. The gist of the story is we come into this world like newly created snowflakes falling freely and effortlessly from the sky. As you know each snowflake is different, each snowflake has its own unique structure, just as we are all unique in our differences and, just like each snowflake we are all subject to extreme changed in temperature, humidity, wind and relationships with other snowflakes as we continue our journey, spiraling slowly but sometimes swiftly to our destination. Our journey through infancy, childhood and adolescence develops our individuality even more and it is hoped that a true sense of identity is established before our snowflake hits the ground, because and it is unfortunate, that in many instances an individual snowflake becomes just one of many others that merge together to form a seemingly endless and barren field of snow or in the worst case is swallowed by the ground and never seen again. Unfortunately this analogy is true of our society, many of us lose our individuality when we fall to the ground, merge and become part of the snow field, rather than a complex community of individuals which God intended us to be. Life can take away the snowflake in all of us if we allow it to happen. We follow the crowd instead of the light of God with the blessings and gifts He has given us. One of our many gifts is individuality. That spirit and energy of singular essence that determines who we are among all the other snowflakes that have come and gone before and after us. On this whole planet there is NO ONE quite like you.
The moral of this story is to tread softly as you make your way through the snow fields of your life … and remember to step gently so as to not damage other snowflakes who may, for a time be beneath your feet. Because the time may come when someone may have to walk on YOU!
May the peace of Christ, God with us, Emmanuel, be with you in these days.
Rev. Walter Coy