It has been a very full week here at this old house. I just finished grading the online course I teach twice a year for the Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership (MSFL) program for Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. Five minutes ago, I hit submit on my final grades and the hectic week of grading several assignments and moderating many discussion board threads (group e-mail, essentially) ended. We decorated the tree last night. For two weeks, it had sat in Advent with only lights and candles on it but now it has decorations. John’s sister, who is with the State Department, arrived yesterday from the Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan (making it out purely through prayer), finally home for Christmas. And last but not least, this week I finalized my notebook with all the music in it for all the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services at church. It has been a very full week.
My reward for being faithful to all these tasks will be to look at my new pop-up book by Robert Sabuda, the 20th anniversary edition of his Christmas Alphabet, and to read the second of the Tony Hillerman novels with Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo police as the main character. Creation is celebrating with me; the sun just came out after a morning of dark, stormy-looking clouds. Advent 3 is ending well, thank you, God.
Pop-up books fascinate me. I love how they are constructed. It is an art form I would like to explore further someday. I also love murder mysteries, especially ones that have a continuing character or story line in each successive book. Having traveled in the Southwest again this fall, I like reading the descriptions of places I have been in the Hillerman novels. He is also acknowledged as an authority on Navajo culture, which I am appreciating learning about while adding up the body count and wondering who this book’s killer is. Right now, I am poised to go into the short week of Advent 4 and then Christmas with only (mostly) fun things to do. (I still have to clean this old house on Monday.)
I look forward to the 12 Days of Christmas that will begin on Thursday. It makes me sad that on December 26th, the radio has no more Christmas songs, the stores are jettisoning their holiday wares, and most people are ready for “Christmas to be over.” For Christians, Christmas is just beginning! Or it could be; too many don’t understand the blessing and gift of liturgical time and so get caught up in “mall time,” ending Christmas themselves on December 26th. Living by the Church Year calendar and not the current season at the mall can give us a larger perspective on life and our place in eternity. While everyone else feels that Christmas is over, we, as Christ-followers, are just beginning to savor the richness the Feast of the Nativity was designed to be, a far cry from what it has become.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is an immense Reality to ponder. The first cry of Jesus in the manger is God’s first battle cry of victory over sin, death and evil. The manger may look all fuzzy and warm but it is God’s beachhead into enemy territory. You don’t see that much on Christmas cards! It takes me at least twelve days every year to begin to fathom that concept. Many Christians focus more on the Crucifixion and/or the Resurrection, also very important pieces to God’s plan, and skip quickly over the Incarnation. Too many Christians treat Christmas as a nice family time and not a time for corporate worship. A longer meditation time, alone and together, on what it means for Jesus to leave everything and live as a human being for 33 years on this earth can help us understand what John 3:16 is really all about: For God SO LOVED THE WORLD (emphasis mine). That verse makes no sense if we don’t begin to grasp the Incarnation.
Not grasping Christ’s coming as a human being has also led to a lot of disregard for, even hatred of, Creation and even our own bodies. If we understood how much God loved the material world as evidenced by Jesus coming in human flesh, Christians would be on the forefront of the environmental movement as well as understanding that self-care does not equal self-indulgence. Yet, by seeking only redemption out of the world through Jesus’ saving work on the cross and Resurrection, we too often treat our life here on earth as a long wait in a run-down train station with bad coffee. Our life of eternity begins here and now! Jesus showed us that by his birth and the way he lived, as well as his death and Resurrection! The Kingdom of Heaven is here, now. Good news of great joy!
Advent has been a time of getting ready; the 12 Days are nearly here. Let the party begin!