I've always loved the Advent wreath and the plethara of symbolism it contains. It was a beautiful season to teach about when I was teaching and now I get to bring those lessons home instead of cramming them in and cutting them short with Christmas break.
When I walked into church this morning and saw the beautiful Advent wreath I swooned a bit inside. When we began to sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" I started to feel a little giddy. As I got up to sing the psalm, I was so glad to be able to offer my voice in song to in some way add to this beautiful celebration. ...and as I looked at Ava I had such joy thinking of how much I was going to love celebrating this season with her as she grew older and could really understand it.
I was taught when I really started to appreciate my faith that Advent is a time to celebrate the THREE comings of Christ. The THREE comings of Christ? Yeah... that's what I said! I thought it strange the first time I heard it too.
The FIRST coming is obvious and it's the one we all pretty much focus on. The Incarnation. The coming of Christ in the Flesh, in particular as the babe of Bethlehem. This is the one we always want to remember and recall how very much God loved us that he sent his one and only Son to us ...hidden under the form of our very own flesh.
I often taught how so many times we think that God will reveal himself to us in these magnificent "showy" ways. It would be so much easier for us wouldn't it? Or would it? I think that if we were living in the time of Moses and we got up every morning to look out our window with our cup of coffee and see the billowing mountain on fire with smoke and clouds and the magnificence of God speaking to us through it, of course at FIRST we'd be amazed and scared and awed, but after a while it would perhaps become a daily occurance and even the most magnificent display would become commonplace.
We're not phased by movies where the special effects are fantastic. After a brief spell, we find ourselves unmoved by even the most moving things.
God is so much smarter than that. He can of couurse shoow his majesty to us whenever he wishes or perform miracles whenever he wishes. And I believe he DOES do these things, but we have become sort of complacent to them. I mean, honestly, every birth of a child is a miracle! A true miracle. Once you've carried in your womb and seen it first hand it's even more of a miracle! ...but even that we take so much for granted and miracles become "eh" ordinary to us who are so accustomed to them.
If we look back through Salvation history we see that God so often chose to reveal himself in hidden ways. The "whispering wind" and such...
...and ultimately the quiet teenage girl carrying the greatest miracle of all time inside her and bringing him forth to us in the "silent night","away in a manger" beckoning to us "do you see what I see?" Even as he grew and "dwelt among us" he did so in an ordinary life and family (or perhaps not so ordinary, but it may have appeared so).
I think back on those who were such amazing examples of faith and family to me over the years. Many witnessed by their families to me in ways they may never know and through their ordinary little "Nazareths" they healed so much brokenness in my heart from what I missed having not fully experienced the truth and beauty of a family life lived as it should be intact with love and realness and sacrifice. I did not even know what I'd been missing until I encountered it face to face. And perhaps that is why family life is so under attack? Perhaps because it holds the power to shape us in ways we cannot yet even begin to grasp. All of history begins... within the family.
The FIRST coming is the Incarnation. The coming of Christ as man. There is so much to ponder just here, many more wise and eloquent than I have filled volumes with their thoughts on this mystery.
The SECOND coming we consider is the coming of Christ at the end of time when he returns again. This we focus on during Advent as we remember that he WILL come again and we WILL be judged and he will come to us like a "thief in the night" when we least expect it.
This coming we should truly ponder as we find ourselves busy about so many things in this season that pulls at us from every direction.
The readings today reminded us not to be "carried away by the anxieties of daily life". Let this be a lesson to us as we get so stressed out about things that simply don't matter that much! The gifts we give at Christmas... are they worth the debt we may find ourselves in later? Do they really bring us closer to the people we purchase them for? Do they foster any gratitude or appreciation or rather feed a culture of "greed"?
Now don't get me wrong... I LOVE to give gifts... I just always have. Love to give them, wrap them, make them beautiful and make someone else happy. I love it.
But I cannot allow myself to be carried away by a culture that would completely wipe from my memory the greatest gift of all time if it could. I must always bring myself back to remember what the season is truly about and if I received not one gift I would still be richer than many because of the gift of faith I've been given in him who was given to me.
Shaun on the other hand totally is NOT a "gift-giver" per se. That doesn't mean he's never given me a gift and good ones at that, but he's so NOT a materialistic person and truly would be happy as a clam if he never recieved a gift at all. Because of this, he is filled withh such appreciation whenever anything is done for him or given to him that he's a joy to be around. I love that about him. He also hates being told he has to "give a gift because ...it's Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or Easter, or a Birthday" whatever. This can be good and bad, but I think essentially he understands deeply that we are to be generous always, not just when we're told it's appropriate or expected to be.
As we prepare for the SECOND coming of Christ as King during this busy season let us also be helped along as we ponder on the THIRD coming of Christ.
The THIRD coming of Christ??? Yes. The THIRD coming of Christ falls between the other two. It is perhaps the most important for us. It is the coming of Christ into our hearts and lives. It is particularly appropriate for this time of year.
*side note: just NOW as I was typing this post, I was interrupted when I recieved a call asking me to substitute for an adorer who wouldn't be able to make his Holy Hour tonight at Our 24 hour Adoration Chapel downtown.
For a moment I thought of the date my husband wanted to take me on tonight, the baby who needed me, the errands I was hoping to maybe run after being laid up all week... and just for a moment I almost refused!
Then the next moment I remembered what I was in the middle of writing, and how Christ was at that very moment the one calling me and asking if I had room in the "INN" of my heart and time for Him?
I recalled that my Mom was coming to watch the baby for our "date" and she would be well taken care of. I recalled how it would be the perfect way to spend the first Sunday of Advent as a married couple. I recalled how I'd just gone to confession and expressed a desire to renew my prayer life. ...and after quickly checking with Shaun who didn't for a second hesitate with his "Yes" I said, "Yes, we'd be happy to take the hour" And I AM happy to!
BUT do you SEE how easy it is for us to feel "inconvenienced" by the demands Christ makes on our time or our schedules when in fact he is not trying to inconvenience us... he's trying to offer us the gift of himself.