As the Christmas season approaches (and yes, in the liturgical calendar, the season we are in now is not yet the Christmas season), I realize that this might be my last Advent post. Tomorrow we are celebrating our own family Christmas. Then Sunday, Christmas Eve, will be a whirlwind of church services, programs, cookies, candles, and songs. Christmas Day we are headed south to be with my family.
So, I feel the urge to wrap up Advent in a final post. But, the truth is, none of this easily tidied up. Advent is sad and hard. Christmas itself is a strange mix of horrible and joyful. The story of Jesus' birth is not truly lovely in its details. I mean, yes, there are angels and announcements and a star (and a cute baby), but there is also the suffering of a young mother, the sacrifice of a newly married adoptive father, and the cries of mothers who will lose their baby sons to a desperate king. There is fear, loss, and pain.
It's all so utterly messy.
But when is a birth ever not messy? I've witnessed three births and I've given birth four times. Trust me: it's a bloody, screaming, sloppy mess. Even if it goes well. I find it rather comforting that God chooses to enter into our world through this untidy business of birth, knowing that what comes after will be just as chaotic and weird and wonderful. What commitment! "Emmanuel" was God's pledge to enter into the tangled workings of the world with us.
And that is a lesson I have to continue to learn, not just every Advent, but every season, every day, every moment. God is with us. God is with us in our suffering, in our joy, in our fumblings, failings, and moments of grace. God is among the broken-hearted, the poor, the meek, and the vulnerable.
When we are changed by this daily reminder of God's nearness, God asks us to keep giving birth, to continue bearing Jesus in the world, with all the messiness and terror and joy that entails. May we all be people who are willing to stand in the mess with God and with others.
Thank you for hanging in with me. "Joy to the world," in all its untidiness, is only a few days away. Enjoy this fulfillment of hope. But if you cannot, know that God is with you there too.
Also, here is a lovely Advent reflection at Sick Pilgrim by Andrea Ciceri.