Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent and Pregnancy

I had a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday about Advent. He was saying that he didn't think of Christmas as four weeks of celebration. He acknowledged that he might sound a bit Grinchy or that maybe he just wasn't a goood enough consumer. He explained, "For me Advent is more about waiting and longing. It is about recognizing the lack. It is about our sadness for not being able to touch God, our sadness at a broken and hurting world." (paraphrased). He said that his favorite Christmas songs are ones that acknowledge that melancholy hopefulness. The Israelites were longing and waiting for Messiah to come, longing and waiting for a Savior to save them.

I happen to agree. Every year, if we enter into a deep solidarity with the pain of the world and a deep celebration with the hope of Christmas, we participate in reliving that momentous occasion of Christ's invasion and rescue into this world. Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God and we are participants in the here-and-not-yet kingdom. It is "at hand" as Jesus said. It is hidden like a seed. It is the day of small beginnings. It is like yeast permeating and changing the whole loaf of bread. Can you hear the ache of Jesus prayer...Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done...  And we hope for that final and complete restoration and resurrection of all things when Heaven and Earth will be one. Some Christian Theologians of described Jesus incarnation as the divine so uniting with the created that God got a foothold in creation so that the redemption of the cosmos could be completed.

Pregnancy is such a weird thing. You might know that my wife and I are "expecting" our third child. I mean what a beautiful, mysterious process. This here-and-not-yet sort of thing. When people ask me how many kids I have, what do I say? Two and a half? What a perfect metaphor for advent. I've included excerpts from Romans 8 (Message Translation) where Paul makes these connections. You might be surprised at Paul's theology :)

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

-Apostle Paul (in a letter to the church in Rome, Chapter 8) 

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