Dear friends of St. John's,
I've noticed lately that the auto industry has a consistent line of suggestion in its holiday advertisements that perhaps a brand new car would be the perfect Christmas gift for your loved one. Just yesterday I saw a commercial for a luxury line SUV that was fully wrapped, replete with big red bow. The next segment revealed an innocent and unsuspecting young girl coming out to the driveway to discover her brand new $60,000 Christmas gift awaiting her in the driveway. My first thought? Must be nice.
In my Advent meditations I've been thumbing through Fleming Rutledge's hefty book, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ. In one of her sermons based on Matthew 3 and John the Baptist, Rev. Rutledge points out that one of the most common seasonal cries of the season of Advent is, Maranatha! come, Lord Jesus! This cry doesn't so much refer to the first Advent of Christ and his birth as a vulnerable baby in Bethlehem as much as it does the second Advent of Christ when he will come to judge the living and the dead, expose the sin and evil in the world wherever it lurks, and make all things new. For this reason, Rev. Rutlledge points out that this Advent cry, Maranatha!, isn't so much of a scary notion to the poor and oppressed and it is to those in our world who have a lot to lose, like a $60,000 Christmas gift, for example.
All of this, including my reflexive reaction to the commercial I saw yesterday, reminds me that Jesus' manifestation of love in the world is countercultural. It isn't simply a cute, squishy baby we get to celebrate on December 25th every year. It's a message of radical inclusion and self-sacrifice, and so many of us don't want that kind of gift for Christmas. If I'm honest, me included. Do I want a brand new luxury SUV for Christmas, or do I long for Christ to come? These two things seem at odds with one another when I consider that Jesus' gift in the world is one of life for all people, forsaking not only material possessions but also our very lives. This is a bold and dangerous gift, and this is why I need the season of Advent before Christmas, to remember these things. It's a kind of spiritual excavation that is uncomfortable but which I find I need this time of year, perhaps more than ever.
May our Advent meditations lead us ever closer to hear of Christ.