Whether you find yourself in church this Advent or struggling to step foot in its doors,
the message of Advent surrounds us.
Of all the Advent stories, the one in the Gospel of John is my favorite. John doesn’t have a stable or a manger, no Mary and Joseph, no shepherds or angels or wise men. No, John starts somewhere else:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In my imagination, God sighed deeply and thought, They still can’t figure it out. I’ve tried writing it down. I’ve tried sending prophets. And they aren’t understanding. They keep killing each other and seeking power. They don’t understand what I’ve been trying to tell them. I’m just going to have to go down and show them myself. So God wrapped up in human skin and became one of us.
Preparations were made: an angel named Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive, a census was ordered by the Roman government, Mary and Joseph left their home and traveled to Bethlehem.
And then, one night, Love was born.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
God-With-Us entered earth to show humanity, in flesh and blood, the Way to life, to live:
Feed the hungry.
Visit the prisoners.
Take care of each other.
Love. Just… love.
He was in the world… yet the world did not know him.
Humanity didn’t respond so well. Love entered the world, and humanity rejected it. Humanity decided it knew better than Love; that it didn’t need to listen to this new Way it offered. Humanity scorned it and cursed it and mocked it. Then humanity took Love by the throat… and executed it.
Lately I feel as though we’re perpetually living in that Saturday between Good Friday and Easter morning, on an unending loop. It’s hopeless and cold. Whatever comes next, I pray with sighs too deep for words that it will be Good. It must be Good. Please be Good.
That’s what Advent is, I suppose. It’s a time for waiting, to imagine what the world would be like if Love hadn’t entered, if Death really did have the last word. I don’t care for mixing my Advent and my Lent; my Easter and my Christmas. I want to sit with the Love of the birth; I want to keep that baby in the manger and not let him grow up. I want to preserve his innocence and preserve his life, because I know what’s coming for him. I know he will be rejected. Can’t he just stay in that manger forever?
I see it all around me, even still. I see the rejection of Love and the pain that it causes. Humanity has been around for thousands of years; you’d think we’d be past this by now. We have figured out how to cultivate crops and how to attach wheels to axels. We have figured out how to flip a switch to illuminate a room and how to communicate instantaneously with people we have never even laid eyes on.
But we haven’t figured out how to be at peace. We haven’t figured out how to not kill each other.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
But Love cannot die.
Love cannot die.
Sometimes it feels as if Love has died, though. There’s just so much hurt. So much violence. So much death. So much destruction. So much conflict. So much oppression. So much selfishness.
Every day feels like the night, hopeless. Cold. Frightening.
I hear the faint whispers of Advent as I huddle together with those around me to keep warm and gasp, “Come, Lord, come quickly…”
And I hear Love whisper back: I already did.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
I need this reminder, every day. Even as I wait for the coming of Jesus, I keep forgetting that God-With-Us has been here all along. When that light of all people seems to fade away, I see a faint flicker and I remember these words. Mostly, it comes when I least expect it.
When Love overpowered Death, it showed all of humanity—the very humanity that mocked and scorned and executed it—that Love is with the powerless, with the unexpected. Even death spawned by hate and rejection couldn’t stop the Love that taught care for those on the margins. A baby born under questionable conditions in an occupied country in the Middle East embodied Love Itself, and that is why I know that even when the night feels hopeless and lonely and cold, this is not the end.
I might still feel cold and lonely. I might still feel as though hate and rejection are gaining ground.
But that baby coming to the manger is unlike any other… and Love will always overcome.