Life a Weblog for Young Adults
“Long suffering”—one of the fruits of the spirit—is a phrase that strikes the modern ear as more than a little odd. Today in North America, “to suffer” calls for immediate intervention: a financial stimulus, a pill, a new job, a new relationship. Anything to relieve our pain (however great or small). In fact, most of us wonder how suffering could ever be good, especially over a long period of time. It sounds more like a cruel form of punishment—perhaps something akin to water-boarding—than a spiritual fruit.
In this third week of Advent, I’d like to suggest something provocative; I’d like to propose, as others have before me, that our God is too small. For those of us who have so much—and most of us in the West do, even in these economically challenging times—it’s often hard for us to imagine God as anywhere but in North America, doing North American things, in safe, North American churches. Our God is too small. But how can I say this? For one, I know the story of the nativity, the outlandish narrative of the Word made Flesh, God born in a dumpster to peasants from an undesirable corner of an occupied country.
As I write, it’s early December. In view is our beautifully decorated Christmas tree, stockings hanging from the mantle above the fireplace, kids snuggling with mom on the couch, and my first run at a new playlist for our annual Christmas Eve brunch playing on the iPod. Could it get any better? Of course it could! This is America, right? It can always be better.
In a moment of almost divine inspiration, musician John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I’ve always been struck by the truth of that statement, and especially so during Advent—a paradoxical season in which the “now” and the “not yet” link arms in an odd union of time and tenses.
When I think of the season of Advent, the four-week part of the church calendar that immediately precedes Christmas, the word that comes to mind is “expectation.” Indeed, Advent is a season in which we wait hopefully for that which is promised but is not yet fully formed. It is during this time of year that those of us who are Christians receive the startling news that Christ is being formed in us; that Christ is being born. The question is this: What will we do with such strange, wonderful news? Will we receive it as if for the first time? Or will we become numb to the message?