Thursday, December 16, 2010

an advent reflection.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Aside from the fact that it is hot enough to make me sweat every single day here, there are so many things that just don’t feel right. Friends and family send me e-cards for Christmas with pictures of dancing snowmen and pictures of their trees all decorated with flashy lights and winter-related ornaments. Right now, to me, that all seems like another world.

So, without all the "normal" Christmas stuff to make me feel like it's "Christmas time!", I have not found myself falling into my normal Christmas feeling of excitement for hot chocolate and Christmas parties with red and green cocktails and presents under the tree and Christmas songs on the radio 24/7 and did I mention hot chocolate? With the tiny marshmallows.

Yeah, there's none of that here. Instead, for me, this time gets to truly be Advent. I have been thinking a lot about what advent means, and as always, life in El Salvador sheds light on so many things I thought I already understood.

Everyone knows advent is about waiting.We are waiting for the day when we celebrate the first coming of Jesus - Christmas. We prepare for God's coming into the world, God made flesh. God was born as a little child on this earth in a stable one day, and we get to celebrate the beauty of that sign and celebrate too what it means to be human because of that.

I have been thinking about what that truth means. First, I think, God's humbling of Godself tells us all a lot about what kind of Savior God wants to be: a human one. God is Everything, and could come into this world and cast out demons and bring the poor to a land of milk and honey and free the oppressed. I often find myself wishing God would do that. There is just so much suffering here, so much need, so much despair. Doesn't God want to lead these people to a better place? But imperialism and unemployment and destruction of our natural resources and the earth has made El Salvador a miserable place for a lot of people. Oh God, won't you come save us from what we have done to one another? But the answer that God gave in the Incarnation was this: don't blame me, you've got two hands, don't you?!

Because part of the "waiting" in advent means we wait not only for Christ's coming as a child 2000 years ago; we wait for Christ's second coming. We wait for the land where there will be no more tears. We hope it's true. We really, really hope.

But do you know what else I am noticing these days? I am thinking about not so much what God's coming says about God, but what God's coming says about me. God could, as Annie Dillard writes, "catch time in it's free fall and stick a nickel's worth of sense into our days." But God chose what kind of Savior God would be - a human one. One like me. One who gets tired and needs nourishment and needs clean air to breathe and is subject to this world just as much as we seek to change it. God's becoming human says to humanity, hey, wake up, you are HOLY, damnit! I am capable of bringing light and hope into this world too. And that just makes me feel really grateful. Really grateful for what I can do with my two holy hands, instead of sitting around waiting God to come.

So now, these days, I am waiting for what we might call the "third coming" of Christ. That is, the coming of Christ into the world today, right now. The coming of Christ to me in the poor, in the eyes of the beggars I pass every day, in the family that digs through the garbage at the end of my street, in the laugh of the little boy I pushed high on the swing, in the kindness of a neighbor who shares a cup of coffee with me, in the sound of Lucy's broom as she sweeps the floor like she does every day even though it will just get dirty again. It's in my work, in my daily work, in the ways I try and try to bring little lights to dark places. In my life, Christ's third coming is in me, in the opening of my heart, in the ways Christ comes to me and nourishes me so I can keep living here with joy and hope despite all the many reasons I should not.

The notion that advent is a "waiting" for Christ to come could suggest that Christ is not already here. It could suggest separation. But separation is not the truth of advent. The truth of advent is in humanity's intimacy with God. It's in our daily hopes and struggles and all the ways Christ is miraculously here among us, for us, in us, Emmanuel! Dear friends, we are the ones we have been waiting for.