Christmas is like chaff. There is this great life-giving gem that is the birth of a Savior, who will save all of Creation. We’ve taken this gem and wrapped it in good-intentioned but meaningless stuff. While I love a good present, I am more-and-more bothered by the lack of serenity in the world. What a sublimely magnificent place (follow NASA on Twitter to see). What a glorious happenstance within the universe. Yet we (humanity!) have become known for violence, greed, distance and brutality. This gem of salvation has become lost in the frivolousness of the world. Obsolescence is built into everything, so that the magical device on which this blog is written will be dead in 5 years. (Please last five more years!) Everything becomes so quickly irrelevant. It requires a colossal effort–yea a leap of faith–to believe in anything eternal. And yet, is this all there is?
Most of us, regardless of religious affiliation sense that there is more. I think that is the first kernel in real faith, be it in God, humanity, even those fervently devoted to science. We are astounded and troubled. We are resilient and defenseless. We are curious yet timid. We strive for the new, yet crave familiarity. Some of us overcome these discrepancies and literally touch space. Some live in the tension and help us see ourselves. Some fight demons of life and culture and overcome. Too many sit on the couch of life: wishing for a grain of life, yet habitually committed to the chaff.
That is the trouble I see at Christmastime. Not a war on a religion or even a holiday. A species bereft of meaning meets a season of hope, delight, simplicity and liveliness, with a real possibility of missing the point. Advent becomes a spiritual necessity, lest we drown in the saccharine of commercial Christmas.
So what do we do? I’m not against presents, but I’d rather have experiences and moments than stuff. I need more quiet, more community and more courage. I need less stuff, less commotion (these kids at Panera are driving me nuts–how dare they sing Jingle Bells at such a volume and act all excited for the season!)…I need less impatience with others.
So a recipe for Advent.
- Radical giving: Giving as an act of subtracting from your life things you don’t need. Certainly, in your town, there are people who need that stuff more than you. And certainly #GivingTuesday is a great idea. But you may need to give some things to your trash heap for the sheer sake of living more easily.
- New Communities: I’m talking about the innkeeper taking in Joseph and Mary. Perhaps more than Lent, Advent is the time to befriend refugees and outcasts.
- Embracing the Darkness: Not so easy for my Australian friends, but it’s quite dark up north this time of year. While it’s nice to drive through your local lights displays, is there not something different about quite places at dark times? The changing seasons give opportunity to see the same things in a different light. Plus, we’ve just become too noisy. Quiet + dark = introspection.
- More Parties: I’ve lived my whole life never getting invited to parties. That sucks. As much as I need less noise, I don’t need less cheerfulness. I need sounds that enliven, relax and amuse me. I spend a lot of my leisure time with a toddler and an infant. I need fun time with peers as a way to remember who I am. Maybe this is dependent on one’s level of connectedness.
Advent is that process by which the chaff of frivolousness is removed from the grain and the seed can find its way to fertile soil. Aware that I am sometimes prone to projection, I wonder if most might need to reclaim Advent as a way to rethink Christmas.
One thought on “Matthew 3: The Threshing Floor of Advent”
Thank you. Recently i’ve had Paul’s advice to the people in Corinth stuck in my mind, “look not at what can be seen, but look at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” As you point out the outside chaff is the wrapping which is seen, yet is only temporary. I think what your receipt can help each of us “see” is the eternal christ within every person. And isn’t that one of the purposes of Advent?