“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. – Matthew 8:20
Instead of following any of our usual traditions, this Advent kicks off an intense season of unsettling. While I am listening to Handel’s Messiah, because that’s just what you do before Christmas (also, it is less annoying than the radio), there is a decided focus on projects like this…
…instead of usual things we might do at this time of the year. Instead of covering little boxes with ornamental paper, I’m covering big boxes with Sharpie-d words like, “KITCHEN/OFFICE/ETC/FRAGILE/HEAVY” (sometimes all on the same box… uh…) and covering oddly shaped packages with shrink wrap, which is like a giant roll of Saran Wrap. Instead of buying candycanes to stir my hot cocoa and preparing favorite traditional dishes, I’m creatively mixing random foods from the freezer into “adventurous meals” in an effort to move it empty. I miss setting up a Christmas tree, placing a wreath on the front door, making snowflakes, hanging stockings, sitting by the fire with our special Christmas mugs. (Aaron’s is a Grinch.) I’m missing church Christmas events, special times with friends, surprise gifts for people I love, familiarity, routines, and control. Instead, I’m saying “good-bye” to much of this and will have to start all over in the new year.
It’s funny that this season is entrenched in tradition and patterns, and that those annoying radio songs focus on things that stay the same (chestnuts, mistletoe, snow and lights, etc.), because the beauty of the real story is that it isn’t about what stayed the same. The history of captivity, wandering, rigid moral and civil codes, receiving and ignoring confusing prophecies, war, tumult, siege, exile, and silence culminates in an unplanned pregnancy, a sub-par birth situation, an emergency move to Egypt, an entire town bereft of little boys. This does not speak to maintaining long-standing magical-feeling traditions. The beauty of this all is that these interrupted circumstances pointed to what was superior and everlasting, and it wasn’t customs or feelings or family gatherings – it was the faithfulness of God and the fulfillment of His promise.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. …From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ … He has made him known.” – John 1
While I would rather be lighting candles, singing verses of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and reading Messianic prophecies over special dinners, I’m packing up my home, moving away from dear friends and students, spending weeks running around for family gatherings when I would rather be nesting into a new home, and not really doing much of my usual Christmas stuff. This is going to be an Advent with lots of practical reminders of Christ’s coming down to us — from timeless to temporary, from eternal life to a taste of death, from glory to a manger and then no place to lay his head, from the splendor of heaven to the unsettled mess of earth. (Which is more of a condescension than trying to function with the unsettled mess of my living room, though in my mind they seem pretty comparable.)