Advent is a special time for me, I hope it is for you too. The message and timing of it pushes us to take inventory of our year and points us to the meaning and beauty of Jesus’ coming. Looking back, I remember one year feeling like I was going through my days without enough prayer and reflection. It was the weeks of processing Advent that pushed me to re-center, process more, pray more, look back and ahead more and this helped me in the following New Year.
Maybe you’re new to Advent, maybe you feel like you’ve gotten off to a late start, maybe you started well but find yourself disconnected, I think that’s normal and this isn’t to appease my guilt of having done similar over the years. If I can be of encouragement, I’d suggest asking yourself, “Am I spending enough time thinking about the things that matter in this life?” And a follow up thought would be once you realize the better answer to the question is not only about the amount of time you spend dwelling on such essential things but it’s also about the posture and resulting action – this is where many have found the balance of thought/action/peace.
Advent comes and I hear sermons, I read devotionals and walk around trying to really figure out why God would really come to this world and become one of us. Of course it feels better to exist than to not exist but if I was self-existing, beyond human, all-powerful, God-like, what would compel me to come to this world? This world where the general global population routinely chooses their own happiness at your expense regularly? A world filled with hate for the most trivial of reasons? A world where we often have to make up reasons to justify selfish behavior? A world addicted to its own selfishness to such a degree that it often lacks the ability to recognize something significantly and distinctively better?
Somedays I think if I were God, I would have abandoned “Project Earth” and skipped over to one of other projects in the “Creation Folder.” Imagine being the God of a world that decided to fully worship God rather than live in a post-fallen world that often ignores and rejects the beautiful redemption awaiting them. I imagine this alien planet in a Garden of Eden setting, singing their hymns, serving one another, and doing everything right. The competitive side of me doubts these creatures would be as beautiful as us but they seem like the type of imaginary people that God would prefer. So with that possibility why does God bother with us?
Of course, I’m supposed to pause here and realize the reason God became man was out of his great love for us and His desire to save us from ourselves and from each other. I understand that on some intellectual level but on an emotional one, I would understand if God decided to leave us to our own devices. At the same time, I am grateful that God is not governed by my emotional responses and instead, is sympathetic. I’m grateful for the way Advent works.
I care about our world, I care about the pain, injustices, the abandonment, and abuses on a systematic level and on a person one. I feel the hurt and anger. And in my defense (and maybe yours), some of it is a righteous anger. My problem is that my righteous anger often leads me to distance myself from the world, or at least from what I deem the wrong part of the world. It should be noted that after Jesus cleansed the temple in righteous anger, he soon entered Holy Week. No distance from the world, instead, greater immersion of its even more hideous nature. Embracing the evil so He could overcome it and delver His people. Convicting.
Again, this is how Advent makes a mess of things. It’s the back and forth of unlearning, learning, re-learning, seeing something completely new that brings us to a better place. Maybe next year, my year will be marked by greater compassion for the world while embracing more of its ugliness. Even as one who as a high appreciation for plurality and paradox, I frankly feel ill-equipped to do that. But this feels like what Advent is leading me towards – seeing the goodness of God from even more angles bringing us to a deeper faith.
I am moved by this God who knew exactly what He was in for when He thought of coming to us. I am humbled this God did not choose to skip over our planet. I’m grateful that God bothers with us and I thank God, I’m not God. There would be no Advent, there would be no deliverance, there would be no better life in this world or in the next.