Every time I’ve read it, every time I’ve heard it, said it aloud, it feels weighty, almost self-indulgent.
Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear can understand this season of Advent has been less than merry. There is a great sense of global, national and personal loss this Advent season.
My parents and grandparents, make it a point to look for the beauty. I think of it as an act of obedience. As much as we want to deny it, some things are not beautiful; some are just hideous. These things demand testimony, too. Some things are so broken they must be completely remade, restored, reformed.
It’s in the face of such things we have to say it believing…Merry Christmas! God is here! The only re-Maker, re-Storer, re-Former I know is here.
He chooses the small. I long to see the big, dramatic, even the devastating and yet, redemption always begins in the small, the least, the littlest.
Sometimes, I want to yell Marantha and ask the questions that if we’re honest; I think many hearts have asked this year…
“Why do you wait, Lord?”
“Why did you allow this?”
“Why do you say this is for our good?”
“Why do you say the kingdom has come…where?”
The realest of real questions I’ve ever heard are in the Psalms.
What I find there is also a lot of “Selah”…pause, breathe, pray again, look now…and there it is.
Now when these things begin to take place,
Stand up and raise your heads,
Because your redemption is drawing near.
:: Luke 21:28 ::
Lift your eyes your redemption is drawing near: In the small. He chooses to bring redemption in the small things, even when we despise and reject them. In a baby, in the middle of an oppressive state, in a town so small we’d probably miss it. So if Redemption came and drew nigh to us in the smallest way, shouldn’t we seek it now in the same places? In the small, the easily overlooked, the unexpected.
This is where the ripples of Kingdom-come can be seen in these days.
These are the days….just like the old familiar Christmas passage “In those days”.
In those days, hope had been deferred. Four hundred years of hope deferred, of utter silence from Heaven to mankind.
In those days there was a girl, an ordinary girl with modest dreams like getting married and having sons. There was a girl who loved YHWH God and believed His promise. There was a girl He favored.
The thing is, in those days, when the Herald of Heaven told her she’d found favor with God, she was “greatly troubled” by this. “You have found favor with God”…and she was greatly troubled thinking “What does this mean?”
How often, in these days, do I use my current circumstances to find confirmation of God’s favor? And if this were true, if my physical life were supposed to be evidence of God’s favor, then looking at the Son of Man, the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant…wouldn’t we say he was out of favor with the Father?
So why do I?
In those days, after the announcement from the angel, the girl went to her girl, a cousin, to tell her how she was going to have a baby unlike any other baby. Because sometimes when the favor of God rests on you, it takes you a troubled while to let the redemption in you grow before you go and share it with your best girls.
In these days, there is the favor of God resting on me because that baby unlike any other baby…he died and rose making me a beloved daughter to the Father. It just takes me a while to let that “greatly troubled” feeling dissipate as my hallow places fill with redemption. Then, I run to tell my girls.
So in those days, that girl arose and went to the hill country to share her news and hear the miracles God had done in her beloved cousin’s life.
In these days, I arose and went to give and receive news of what God was doing in the lives of some of my own beloved. In these days I would go to an old church in Alabama, one with a transept, a nave, high-backed wooden pews, and stained glass galore. What’s more, in these days there were TONS of college students buzzing with the hope of semester’s end. There, in that old church, the stories of God were shared by those college students who knew God was there, with us. They shared their stories for the people of God and we gave thanks to God. In these days, their stories of faith strengthen that space in me where redemption grew.
In these days, with those most beloved, we found healing in being in that rhythm of grace old friends have, knowing those friendships are gifts straight out of Heaven. In these days we were able to speak aloud how our road to redemption is sometimes loud and filled with Voice, but how most days it’s slow, quiet and feels like growing pains. That redemptive road is long and hard but walking it together makes it more beautiful, strong and sweet. Because much like in those days, these days there is a silence that is close to breaking (I just know it!) In this silence, it’s hard to not hear or to be told what’s next. It’s hard to rest in just knowing He’s here. He’s with me in the wandering days.
In those days, that young girl traveled 80 miles or so to a place where she’d be counted. Never mind that she was full of a baby; ready to bring Life to the world in his putting death to death. Then HE CAME! God with us! He came in those days and never really left!
Right from the start, though, there was great opposition to the Joy of Man’s Desiring. So that girl left a dangerous place with her little family of three. First, they had to cross over the same land her people had thousands of years earlier. The same places where the people of God wandered, lost…This wilderness was trekked over by the One who breathed out the North Star, our guiding Light.
In these days, when I tell a friend I feel in some kind of in-between stage. “It seems like a middle space of waiting in silence. I have this restless expectation.” Not yet out of the dangers in Bethlehem and not yet to Egypt. She says that means I’m in the wilderness. She says “You know He sent a voice there to proclaim his coming too. See, you can’t go anywhere, be anywhere, where He hasn’t been. You can’t be anywhere He isn’t.”
In those days….He is a voice shouting in the wilderness.
:: Matthew 3:1& 3 ::
In these days, when we have to testify to the things that aren’t beautiful. When Advent feels more like Lent with fresh grieving in Pakistan over the slaying of children, in Nigeria over our girls not being brought back, in New York where they can’t breathe with all the hurt, and here in St. Louis where hearts are asking for peace and justice they can’t find. In these days we are all in an in-between stage. We’re here between the first Advent and the second.
Look up! You whose eyes are heavy with tears, who have unanswered questions, who are tired of carrying that burden. Look up! In these days your redemption is drawing near. Can you see Him?
The King of Second Advent is coming! And in Him, “everything sad is going to come untrue”:: Tolkien
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
So let’s whisper it together sweetly as a gentle strength in the face of the dark, “Merry Christmas”.