Sunday, November 27, 2005
Advent: Day One

Close your eyes. Count to ten. Breathe. Today we begin the Anticipation known as Advent. We await the Incarnation of God in flesh and blood and bone.

Think about the words to “Silent Night” the next time you sing that song. If we're to take the angels' encounter with the shepherds seriously, then this is no "silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright." On the contrary, it is a night of supreme rejoicing: "Glory to God in the highest!" We interrupt this existence of suffering, restlessness and death to bring you the news that the omni-everything God of the universe has infiltrated time and space on a solo reconnaissance mission of humankind in the form of a helpless, powerless baby. This is the day the tide turns. The fool's hope is born. The promise to Eve, to Abraham, to Moses, to David will be fulfilled. The longing of all creation will be satisfied. Death will indeed be broken. The dragon is conquered.

Forget “'Twas the Night Before Christmas,” when I have kids, they are getting Elliott's “Journey of the Magi” on Christmas Eve. Those last four lines make me all tingly. “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, / But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, / With an alien people clutching their gods. / I should be glad of another death.” I am deeply relieved at the sight of the baby in the manger. The sight of this seemingly helpless infant changes everything. All of our hopes for a better tomorrow are now born in this manger. What’s all the fuss about Christmas? The infinite God of all creation squeezed Himself into the tiny fingers and toes of a newborn. The Word of God has made His home right here with us. As recorded in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Knowing that it is highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25, 0 B.C., I have often wondered why we celebrate at this time of the year. Then I learned about the winter solstice. The winter solstice represents the longest night of winter in the northern hemisphere. It is the darkest night of the year. The following days grow increasingly longer and brighter until summer. And this is the very same place that Jesus comes into our own lives, at the moment of our darkest hopelessness. When it most seems that the night will never end, Jesus arrives to make everything new. On the darkest night of the year, here is Jesus to put everything back together that has been broken by sin and death. Why is the Incarnation a big deal? Why celebrate Christmas? Jesus has come!

Maybe our nativity scenes have everything wrong. Maybe the shepherds weren't on some snowy hill. Maybe the three wise men did not show up that night. And maybe we would be quite shocked were we to see an honest depiction of what really happened at the birth of Jesus. I imagine it was a real mess. I imagine Joseph and Mary didn't have sentimental memories of that night. I imagine they were probably on their last fumes of energy and hope, with nothing to go on but the words of an angel months earlier and wondering, "Was that a dream? Did that happen? Was it all my imagination? Was all of that talk about Emannuel, God-With-Us really real? Is this really God?"

And so this season, we celebrate God becoming a man. This season we celebrate God entering human history. This season we celebrate the Incarnation. Because that is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. Yes, Christmas is about peace and love and goodwill toward men, too, but it is first about Jesus, about the grand God of the universe and his ridiculous love for all of us. What better day of the year to celebrate the coming of Jesus than the Winter Solstice, the darkest night of the year, when the day shines longer tomorrow. So Happy Incarnation Day.

Happy Advent.

posted by Peter at 1:19 AM
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