Needless to say, it has been an unsual Advent this year. Finding us outside of our normal busy mode of Christmas parties and congregational care, as well as active participation in church life, Advent came tiptoeing in with December. But for the Christmas tree and the gift shopping, I hardly knew it was there.
I kept praying for a deeper sense of the season, but did not quite know how to manufacture it. The flood provided further distraction, and suddenly it was the final week of Christmas with little but a general sense of God’s goodness. There was little relatedness to the babe in the manger or what that meant for me.
And then, just as quickly, Christmas came. Indeed, it could not be manufactured by me. The lesson we have learned perhaps more deeply than we would like, but equally with surprise and joy, has been how much Christ is made manifest through his bride, the church, and through his beloved children, all of us inside the church and out. Christ has come to us repeatedly in human form these last six months, and this season would be no different. So that is how Advent came to us also, brought by the people who have come to our doorstep, those we know and love and those we have only recently come to know. They have come in bunches, not knowing each other, dropping in unexpectedly or expectedly, but forming unexpected material implements of love and worship.
It reminded me that what the babe brought into the world, fundamentally, was love in its humblest form. Love found it’s way to us this year through people, strangers to one another, friends to us. We did not know how to look for it, nor could we find it on our own. Rather, it came to us, unbidden and unexpected. It took our humble, incidental encounters and created something beautiful, transcending us all.
A few days ago we had just such a rag tag, spontaneous group of people, strangers to one another, form the most beautiful of choirs in our kitchen, literally filling the space with music, worship, and Christmas spirit. It just so happened that they were all uniquely musically gifted, and as the carols filled the space, our joy rose up along with them. I have never experienced that kind of spontaneous carol singing, and had never encountered those themes and lyrics in such a personal way. The evening ended with all of these strangers offering prayers up together, in harmonies made sweeter by the fact that we knew each other only through this moment that we shared.
Such moments cannot be manufactured. They are the most brightly wrapped of Christmas gifts. At that moment, I knew that Advent had finally arrived, like the babe, in a most unexpected and humble form. And it continues to arrive, as others join the chorus of love born in the most incidental of encounters around our kitchen table. It is the best gift, and for me, Christmas has already come, no matter what packages await me under the tree.
From the Christmas carol, O Holy Night:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
With deepest gratitude and love for you all,