Thursday, December 22, 2011

 Advent – or in Spanish Adviento (adventus in latin), suggests arrival – something soon-to-be, something coming – and our preparation and expectation of what is to come.  I like the sound and image of adviento because to my ear it suggests the whoosh of wind, of viento – perhaps the kind that portends much colder weather from faraway.  Even in December, Austin isn’t often blustery (fine by me – my southern hemisphere Christmases were swimming and watermelon affairs), but this time of the year, a great wind usually suggests something chilly ahead.
   And what are you and I waiting for?  An improved economy?  Better  jobs, closer friends? Mended relationships, a new chance at love?  Stronger bodies?   Most of us  anticipate what we would like to have happen, what we want, what would distract us from the ordinary.   We may be tempted to think of the end of a calendar year as one more clean slate, a chance to start anew, improve ourselves, and improve what people think of us, to have enough money to leave aside worry, or enough time to enjoy our successes.  But Bethlehem and Noel are about much more.
     Advent challenges us to a more reflective kind of preparation, to anticipate receiving not only what we imagine we want but what we need.   To clear out space in our lives for what this manger-baby-Jesus promises, away from the errands of our small selves and our Christmas lists, towards wholeness and relationship, towards communion and redemption.   
Prepare for God's arrival! Says the Prophet Isaiah, and his take on advent seems to require an upending of our geography, as if the very landscape of our lives gets in the way of what is coming: Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.  Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it.” (The Message – Isaiah 40:3-5,).

In the current culture skirmish over Christmas, followers of Christ may feel possessive of this holiday, as if it were more our special parade of decorations and tinsel, and music both meaningful and meaningless, and our religion.  Surely the gift of advent, however, is to realize that this Christ that is coming isn’t about any one tribe, any one people, or nation, or citizenship.   Rejoice, the message of the coming Christ is for everyone, everywhere, anywhere.  
Advent prepares us for a Christmas that comes for us all:  birth registrars and road toll collectors, Palestinian border guards, startled shepherds and disbelieving tag-alongs, other star-seekers, jugglers and pole-dancers, and cosmic wanderers, wise-men and well-heeled travelers (needing translators), stable slop cleaners, bewildered innkeepers, an unsettled yet trusting boyfriend, a courageous young mother, swaddling-cloth washers, donkey feeders, and trembling disbelievers, and you and me.  
What are we waiting for?

Steven Mines is an interpreter, English <> Spanish/French/Portuguese, and teaches the Symposium class at FBC.


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