By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Though in many ways we’re already immersed in Christmas, on the church calendar this is actually the season of Advent. The word advent is from the Latin verb, advenire, “to come.” It describes a time of preparation—i.e., for Christ’s first “coming.” Preparation is meant to be more than seasonal decorating, more than greetings and gift-giving. It’s more than holiday baking, laying in gifts for Christmas morning, parties and community festivities. The Advent season is to be a spiritual exercise, a readying of ourselves for the coming of God the Son, willing in his love to enter our mortality. A crowd of ragtag shepherds shared herald duty with angelic hosts, and the fact seems oddly appropriately for the stunning paradox, a birth both glorious and humble. The contrast has puzzled believers and unbelievers century after century. The delineation of it has all the contours of enigma. Why would God come to us this way? No wonder we need an Advent season. There’s a lot to deal with here.
The sweet story is heavy with meaning. That God the Son should share with this hurting world the anguish and sorrows of being human, that he should begin his visitation as the infant son of a poor couple—these are astonishing facts. The mother and foster father, Mary and Joseph, were so powerless, so lacking in societal clout that though he was a descendant of King David, Joseph could only get his wife into a stable when her time was upon them. The scene abrogates every whiff of privilege. Privilege! What a hot topic these days. It’s tossed around like a political football in accusations, polite and fiery debates, news headlines and horrifying photographs of ruined urban areas. Privilege is something we talk about. Nobody wants to admit to it, and their lack of privilege gives this couple and their child access to Christmas USA, 2020–a ready welcome in a country struggling to understand what liberty and justice for all really mean. Privilege? This sweet baby lying there in the hay, breathed on by barnyard animals and celebrated by angels, was the very locus of cast-off privilege. The heights of heaven belonged to him and yet . . .. We’re approaching a wonder as we prepare to visit the manger.
I would like to suggest that as we come, we’re taking the first steps on the long road of mystery. This isn’t some obscure, occult, and scary domain of weird initiates and insiders. No, the manger scene has nothing in common with the mystery cults typical of Rome at the time. The picture opening before us is a glimpse of unthinkable glories made accessible—the heavenlies as home (if veiled to accommodate God’s time table, as well we our lost and blinded state). Here is the Plan announced back in Genesis 3, the certain promise that a Deliverer would one day come and crush the head of the tempter, a Deliverer who would set free every sinner, every rebel falling down with those shepherds to whisper from the heart—Here’s a place for you! Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Into my heart . . ..
Did you sing those words as a child? Somehow, singing seems the best greeting, an impulse we welcoming humans can rightly borrow from that sky full of ecstatic angels.
Isaiah in awe speaks of Israel’s Messiah as “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9: 6), and Paul says: “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2: 8). When Jesus speaks of himself, he says:: “I am meek and lowly of heart” (Matt 11: 29) and doing so makes a place at his feet for every living soul—for the needy rich who seek and the grace-filled poor who know the treasure they have, for the privileged and unprivileged, for anyone and everyone. Is there on this hurting planet a warmer, more inclusive welcome or a more appealing Welcomer? Maybe the best way to live into Advent is to prepare in a different way—as if to open the door of an inn with one more room.