Dear Beloved Community,
I’ve had a recent conversation with one of my children about Santa, the mystery that stirs the imagination about a man who circles the earth in a night, nary a chimney or a sack of presents left behind. “But how can this be?,” they asked me.
As it does for church-going adolescents (particularly those with a pastor mom!), the conversation then shifted to Jesus, the mystery that stirs the heart about a God who comes close in a babe, nary a creature or human outside of his love. “But how can this be?,” I heard again.
With Christmas decorations all around us and night growing close outside, I found myself unfurling the mystery of the incarnation right there. “You know, God didn’t have to come close,” I said. “God could have stayed put, just content to watch and overhear all the created world from a heavenly perch. But instead, God decided that being close to creation was far better than being alone, afar. And of all the ways that God could have come close – a superhero, a big storm or fire, a new planet, who knows! – God showed up in the most vulnerable way: a baby!”
(Ok yes, by that point I was preaching.)
This story is as familiar to me as any, and it never ceases to astound me, not once. Not when I tell it in my living room to my kid, not when I preach it in a beautiful room from an old pulpit, not when I ponder it in the recesses of my heart, not when I hold it up against all the pains and promises of this world. God came close, despite it all. God showed up solely to be with us. God chose the most vulnerable way, the one whose power was made perfect in weakness.
“To Dwell Among Us” is our Advent theme this year, and each week in worship, we’ll enter into the mystery of the incarnation, not to solve or study, but rather in which to rest and marvel. God came to dwell! For nearness to their created world. For the Way to be made plain. For the story of Love to be told again and again. For hopes and purposes to be fulfilled. For good news to ring out in every corner of our living.
The promise of Advent’s liminal season – the threshold of waiting and preparation for Love made flesh – is the promise of a mystery that tears apart the heavens and comes down to earth. Through the doorway of the world as it is, we can imagine the world as it might be. Through the doorway of despair, hope; of war, peace; of cynicism, joy; of disengagement, love; of darkness, light.
For even in Advent’s waiting, the aching expectation, the shadows, we reach for the day when God comes close to dwell, when Love leans in and changes everything.
Together in God’s work of Love,