Thursday, December 15, 2005
I posted this today at ECA and decided to put it here as well.
Rejoice always in the Lord; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near!
Real joy is born of eager expectation--hope. We are waiting for something good, in fact, something wonderful. Hope is a confident expectation. Hope knows that "this same Jesus" who came the first time will come to us again. Advent JOY, Christian joy, is joy built on that hope.
When I was a child I loved to hear my older sister, Darlaine, (who has a wonderful, expressive voice), read stories. There was something very nice about a new story or a new book. But there was something even more pleasing to me as a child, and that was hearing the same beloved story again and again. Both of us can still quote my entire childhood book of "The Three Little Pigs!" I knew, as childre do, that the big, bad wolf wouldn't be able to blow down the third little pig’s house of stone. Snow White would eat the apple and fall asleep, but the handsome prince's kiss would wake her, and they would live happily ever after. Hansel and Gretel would get lost, but they would find their way home again. Each story speaks of the shape of a world with meaning, where evil triumphs, but only for a while, for good at last will overcome it.
Yes, these are only a child's "fairy tales" and the biblical account of Jesus is amazing and deep and rich and true. Nonetheless, there is a sense of childhood joy in the waiting time before Christmas. Advent is a time when “Everybody is leaning forward to hear what will happen, even though they know what will happen and what will not happen, when they listen hard for meaning, their meaning, and begin to hear, only faintly at first, the beating of unseen wings.” (Frederick Buechner).
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at this and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no husband?' And the angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God'” (Lk 1:26-35).
Like children listening to a familiar story, we know how this one ends. But each year we wait again to hear it. The Christ Child was born in Bethlehem, the angels filled the sky with their glorious song, shepherds hurried to the stable. Maji travelled from afar. We seek the meaning in the story, universal yet intensely personal. What is the meaning of this wonderful thing that happened and happens each year once more?
Newspaper man Andrew Greely once wrote:
Jesus was crazy. He came into the world with the nutty idea that human beings could love one another...Peace on earth, indeed! Maybe Jesus should have stayed home. He was wrong. We cannot love one another. The best we can do is keep the levels of hatred low enough so we don?t exterminate one another before we all die ...It was a great idea, of course. Too bad it didn’t work. Still...What if he wasn?t crazy? What if he was right? What if it is possible to love one another? What if the lion can lie down with the lamb? What if...Protestant and Catholic, black and white, young and old, male and female, can love one another without fear, without hatred,
without death and destruction? What if the crib scene is what the world is really all about and everything else is phony? What would it be like if Jesus knew the way things really were? What if life does triumph over death, light over darkness, good over evil, love over hate, comedy over tragedy...? What if...?
Advent joy springs from our sure and certain hope that one day our "What if...?" will become "It's true!"
"Rejoice always in the Lord, I say again, rejoice! For the Lord is near!"
We know how the story ends!