Our small-knit family drew inspiration and encouragement last year, savoring the readings of Jay Cormier, in his: Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope. One of the earliest texts is that of the centurion to Jesus in Matt. 8:8: Lord, I am not worthy the have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.
Cromier says that anyone who has lived with cancer, or has survived a cardiac event or has conquered some debilitating disease will tell you the same thing: every tick of your watch, every second that flashes by on your desk clock, every hour of every day is precious.
The season of Advent calls us to realize what the chronically and terminally ill come to understand: that the gift of time – which we so often take for granted – is precious and limited, that we have much to do in the short time we have been given. God gives us this lifetime in order that we might rediscover Him in the love of others and in the goodness of this world in anticipation of the next. Every day of our lives is an Advent of hope, expectation and preparation – an Advent in which a Roman army officer dares to hope in the healing powers of a Jewish teacher; an Advent of rediscovering the presence of God in the midst of all our joys and sorrows, in the midst of our fears and brokenness, in the midst of our regrets and healings.
As in bygone years, and even in the time of Jesus upon this earth, this Advent brings within it - at home and abroad in the year 2013 - wars, violence and conflict abounding. Who exactly is responsible for the horror taking place? This is the question posed by a group of refugees in Gunter Rutenborn’s post World War 11 play: The Sign of Jonah.
As the debate reaches its climax, someone makes a stunning indictment: God is culpable for what has happened. God is responsible for the pain and insanity people have suffered. An incessant chorus is picked up by all: “God is guilty! God is guilty!” And so God is put on trial for the crime of creation and found guilty. The sentence: God is to be born a human being, poor and homeless, in scandal, deprived of rights. He will be surrounded by the sick, the filthy, the dying – God will know what it means to suffer and die. He will be misunderstood for the good he will try to do and condemned despite the righteousness of his life. And he will die in disgrace and be ridiculed.
The audience who saw this extraordinary play and we who have encountered the Jesus of the gospels realize immediately that God has, in fact, served His “sentence”. God knows what it is like to live as a human being – which means that nothing we face today is unknown to God.
The great, magnificent, liberating message of Advent, Christmas and life as a whole, is that God became what we are so that we can better understand what God is and what God is about: love, forgiveness, justice. Therefore, in the dying words of John Wesley: The best of all is, God with us. Peace and love to you and yours. Have a blessed and joyous Christmas and every good wish during the uncertain yet hopeful days of 2014.