Emails, postcards, flyers, catalogues are showing up everywhere, all begging me to get a jump on Christmas.
Instead of exhorting us to “get a jump on Christmas,” Advent calls us to wait. To wait, not for a baby, but for the Savior, for Emmanuel, for God with us.
During Advent we hear God speak through the voice of Isaiah, telling God’s people the Savior was coming. We also hear from the old priest Zechariah, who, when presented with the child he and Elizabeth never expected to have, gives thanks for the child yet to arrive, gives thanks that God was coming to his people and setting them free, gives thanks for the coming of the mighty Savior whom the Israelites had waited for centuries.
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior . . .”
Only after this praise does Zechariah speak to his son John saying, “You my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way…” We will hear from John several times during Advent, urging us to prepare the way for the Savior to come. Make a straight path for the Lord. Eliminate obstacles, especially those in our hearts.
As Christians, we understand our atonement, our at-one-ment begins with the Incarnation. God has taken on our very flesh in Jesus, Jesus who is also every bit as human as we are. God has taken on our brokenness, our senses, our passion, our will and intellect. Why? In order to redeem all of it. To save us.
As a fully human being, Jesus was beset by the same temptations as our own. He struggled with issues of family as we do. He dealt with brokenness and despair, rejection and denial, social dislocation, power mongering…you name it. Through his life, Jesus took all of this stuff – and we all have stuff – and redeemed it. In Jesus, God took it all on and saved us.
Instead of trying to get a jump on Christmas, take time this Advent to be still, to contemplate and to remember. Remember you are redeemed when you find yourself in a tight spot and believe you are all alone. Remember when you find yourself (once again) making wrong choices and see no hope for the future. Remember when nothing makes sense and justice does not seem to prevail, we have a Savior, Emmanuel, God with us.