I love the season of Advent, pure and simple. You see, I grew up in a home where Advent was celebrated more than what we have come to know as "Christmas"...the tree, the decorations, the lights, the baking, the activities, the stockings, the presents, or any idea of Santa.
When December arrives, my heart and mind are tuned to Advent...which means "coming." When I pause and reflect on the meaning of Advent, I am overwhelmed by our God who chose to come in human form...humbled, limited, small...to come to be known by us. That He should love us so much to come in the form of an infant, in a lowly stable...it's hard to grasp.
Years ago, my husband and I attended a Young Life leadership conference held at their camp in Malibu, Canada. If you've ever traveled up the coast of British Columbia, you know the incredible beauty of the landscape...lush evergreens, tall mountains, descending into the crashing sea below.
The speaker at the conference was an older gentleman, whose name I have forgotten. He had been involved in the Young Life ministry for many years, having served on the national board after being a local leader. What I do remember, what stuck with me, was his topic, the Incarnation of Christ. He said we so often focus on the crucifixion and resurrection, which, yes, are the basis of our Christian faith...yet, neither of those events would have even occurred without the incarnation. The incarnation...God coming in flesh. "The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us," says John 1:14. As Eugene Peterson put it in the Message bible, "The Word became flesh, and moved into the neighborhood." Can you imagine, living next door to God in human form?
The Young Life speaker went on to share a story, a word picture, to help us grasp in a small way, the meaning of the incarnation. The story came from a book (which I purchased once I got home) titled, "Mortal Lessons, Notes on the Art of Surgery," by Richard Selzer. The author is a surgeon, who writes about the mysteries of the human body, of life and death. The story is this:
"I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks. "Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks. "Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut." She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles. "I like it," he says. "It is kind of cute." All at once I know who he is, I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I so close I can see how he twists his mouth to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in."
Do you see it? In much same way that the young husband chose to alter his mouth so he could kiss his wife's disfigured mouth, so Christ altered himself to come in the flesh to accommodate us...to be known by us. I know the story has it's limits..and certainly don't believe in Greek gods, but the overall image of the Christ like husband resonates with me. I also love the words of Martin Luther regarding Advent, " This is what is meant by "Thy king cometh." You do not seek him, but he seeks you. You do not find him, he finds you," It's almost too much to take in....that God would go to such great lengths to seek us and find us.
In my childhood home, the advent wreath was always our centerpiece. Each day we read scripture that predicted the coming of Christ and every Sunday we light a candle, until all four candles were light, just before Christmas. We too followed the example of my parents and our advent wreath is the center of our table. I am reading through Ann Voskamp's book on Advent, "The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas." It's a wonderful way to prepare your heart for Christmas.
My hope and prayer is that this season of Advent will be meaningful to you, in spite of all the demands of the Christmas celebration. I'll leave you with this beautiful Christmas song,
Happy Friday, dear friends. So glad He came, Gracia