Christmas is coming fast and many of us have shifted our focus away from the waiting of Advent to the fulfillment of the birth of Christ (or if we are honest to the frenzy of present buying and partying). But we are still in the season of waiting, hoping and expecting.
Today’s reflection comes from Kathy Esobar – mommy. wife. friend. pot-stirrer. shepherd. follower of Jesus. peace maker. rule-breaker. dreamer. She blogs at The Carnival in My Head where she has written another very powerful Advent reflection – Waiting, Hoping, Expecting the Wrong Things. Kathy is also part of The Refuge in Broomfield near Denver Colorado. Check out their blog too. I appropriated this beautiful Celtic blessing from it
God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and suffering ones, give us your benediction, your good word for our souls, that we may rest.
– celtic advent blessing
i love advent. in most of my church experiences there wasn’t a specific focus on this season of the church calendar, so for the past 4 years it’s been very refreshing that the refuge, the wild and beautiful faith community i am part of, has always intentionally focused on these weeks leading up to Jesus’ birth.
one of my most favorite parts of the christmas story is how Jesus’ arrival seems to surround a long string of “least likelies.” i don’t think this is coincidental in any way, shape or form. i think it’s to make a point–one we might talk about this time of year but in the real day-to-day application of it we often miss. God uses an average not-yet-married-so-it’s-pretty-scandalous-to-all-of-a-sudden-turn-up-pregnant young girl to be the savior-of-the-world’s mother. God’s earthly father is a run of the mill carpenter. God sends angels to announce what’s about to happen to some of the lowest-caste citizens–shepherds. God comes into the world not in a high-class hospital with the most skilled physicians but in a dirty, crowded, stinky stall.
everything about the story is contrary to what was expected of the prophesied-about “messiah.”
to me, that makes total sense. God’s always been a little crazy that way–using the least likely to make a point. a point that even though we nod our head in agreement we don’t often integrate into the deeper places of our spirituality.
i think it’s because engrained inside of humans is a desire for smoother, easier, strength, power, and upward mobility. it’s subtly passed on to us through what we value, and when all around us is a focus on “bigger, better, more, whiz, bang, wow factors” it’s hard to ignore the tug toward it. it’s like some weird magnetic force field always trying to try us in to distract us. to turn our focus toward what the world says is important, valuable, worth-pursuing. to turn our focus toward “the most likely.” the most likely to succeed, the most likely to work, the most likely to make us feel better.
the guiding question christine asked for this advent series was “what are we waiting and hoping for this advent?”
here’s my hope–and it’s not just for advent. i want to see Jesus. i want to smell Jesus. i want to taste Jesus. i want to feel Jesus. i want to notice Jesus. in the flesh. in the spirit.
and i don’t think i have to strive for it. that seems to be “the most likely” answer–that it’s up to us, it’s up to discipline, it’s up to putting-our-nose-to-the-spiritual-grindstone.
no, the least likely place seems to be where i always find Jesus-in the sweet small ways my heart is pricked and i don’t even know why, the beauty and power of a simple hug, a meal shared with friends, a kind gesture that brings dignity, one more day of sobriety for my brave friends, dollar store gifts that pass on hope. in gas money exchanged, in laughter, in tears, in the dark places of friend’s stories, in the flicker of a prayer candle, in the messiness of my house that often mirrors the messiness of my heart. in a long list of little ways that are so easy to miss if i’m focused on the most likely. these lovely small unlikely things give me hope.
and i am reminded yet again this advent season that Jesus’ unlikely entrance into the world, his unlikely mixing with the lowest-of-the-low, and unlikely upside-down teachings don’t just give me great hope. they also help me turn my eyes to the last likely, too.
God, may we notice you this advent in the least likely of ways, people, and places.