Advent when you are a child is a time of great expectancy. It is a time of tinsel and lights and parties and nativity plays and fun. On the final day, Father Christmas brings you a sack full of goodies and you eat your own weight in chocolate and mince pies before the end of the year.
Sometimes, Christmas is like that for adults, too. Many of us focus on the glittering, the twinkling, the excuse for a drink or two – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Christmas isn’t an excuse for a party. Advent isn’t the preparation for gluttony and falling asleep after the Queen’s Speech. Advent is the time we expect the unexpected, yet long-awaited, child who was to rescue the world. In a desperately dark time, when there was famine and dissent and war, Jesus’ contemporaries awaited a saviour who would perhaps sweep across the Middle East, who would destroy their enemies and become a powerful, warrior king – King David with knobs on. But God didn’t choose to be the great destroyer; God instead redeemed His people by sending Himself as a baby.
Then, when He was still small, Jesus became a refugee – the lowest of the low, the least of the least.
There are many Christian refugees fleeing persecution as I write
‘…since you have plenty at this time… you should help those… in need.‘
2 Corinthians 8:14 (GNT)
The God of heaven became the God of earth by taking not the form of the most mighty, but the form of the most vulnerable. Like His death on the most gruesome, humiliating piece of torture equipment that the ancient world could imagine (crucifixion was the Roman idea of absolute subjugation of the occupied nation – more on that during Lent, perhaps)… yes, like Jesus’ death, His birth was, and still is, totally, utterly, beyond counter-intuitive – it’s counter-counter-counter intuitive; it’s virtually insane. God becoming man is crazy enough. But before He became a man, He entered the world as we all do, ‘between the p*** and the s***’ to quote St. Augustine. What God is this who would make of Himself a tiny, squalling, red-in-the-face, blood smeared ball of humanity, utterly dependent and utterly vulnerable? What crazy God is this? And what woman was Mary that God entrusted her with His precious son? Does this give an insight into the Roman Catholic reverence for the ‘mother of God’, perhaps?
Our world is still crazy and screwed up and filled with sorrow. It is also thriving, beautiful and filled with joy. How can it be all of these things, all at once? To paraphrase Ann Voskamp, it’s not the screwed-up-ness of the world that is noteworthy, it’s the good bits – they’re the most crazy… and the good bits were made flesh incarnate in the form of our tiny, newborn king.
Come, O come, Emmanuel…