Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Reflections: 04

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!

Let every heart prepare Him room...

Advent mystically gathers up all of history, the totality of the present, and all that is to come into the one word that expresses every groan, every ache, and every prayer - "Come!"

"Come, O Come, Immanuel!" is a paradoxical prayer.  It at once is a faith-filled affirmation in the historic arrival of God-with-us, just as it is a faith-filled demand for God-so-painfully-absent to show up and end this mess with His eschatological (final, complete act) redemption.  It is also a longing, an articulated ineffable groaning for God-with-us to be more powerfully with us.  We see pain, war, hunger, cancer, AIDS, racism, loss, fear, tears, and we cry, "COME!"

This longing and aching and groaning was the world of first century Palestine into which Jesus was born - into which the prayer "Come!" was answered.  This is Luke's retelling:

  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.



Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!

Yet no one there prepared Him room...


The birth of Jesus, the answer to humanity's and history's laments, happened in the City of David, the place identified with Israel's greatest king.  This happened in a place where week after week they met in the synagogues to reflect on Scriptures that pointed to the coming Messiah and their hope for salvation.  They gathered and cried, "Come!"  They delighted with each other with playful imagination over where and when and how this prophecy would come to pass: "But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient time." (Micah 5:2)

The birth of Jesus happened - God came! - in the place where day after day the citizens would kneel and pray for God to come among them, to rescue them, and to bring them their long-awaited, much-anticipated salvation.  In this town there was a palpable longing for the Advent, the coming, of their great Emmanuel, their Christ, their Messiah, their King.  And He did!



Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!

Yet no one there prepared Him room...


When all those Scriptures were fulfilled, when their hope was realized, when their groans and laments and prayers answered... when Emmanuel came, there was no room for Him. They missed it.


Do you feel the chilling truth of this story?



Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!

Yet no one there prepared Him room...


You see, longing for Christ to come and hosting Christ within you are two radically different things.  I am convinced that missing the wonder, the hope, the salvation, the joy that is life lived with Christ in us is not due to some sinister refusal of His grace.  Missing it rarely has to do with offensive arrogance or blatant disobedience.  Most often we miss out on the coming of Jesus in our lives and in our time simply because there is no room for Him.

Our hearts are too noisy, our lives too crowded, our minds too distracted, our homes too full for us to hear the knocking at the door to receive the coming King.  The packaging - a poor Jewish girl in labor - is just too off-putting for us to receive Him.  Mind you... our religious business (and busyness) can just as easily be part of the clutter that prevents our hearts from receiving Him.


Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!

Let every heart prepare Him room...


The question of Christmas is whether or not we can overcome our fears, our preoccupations, our crowdedness, our assumptions, etc. to open the door to the answer to our prayers even when it comes in rather unbecoming, inconvenient, unclean packaging.


Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!

Will you prepare Him room?


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