In the beginning, the universe was filled with chaos and darkness. It was empty and void. But among it all, the spirit of God hovered over the deep. Waiting. Waiting to create something new.
I think we all have done a bit more waiting than usual this year. Waiting for quarantine to end. Waiting for test results. Waiting for court verdicts and election results. Waiting for a phone call or an email. Waiting for an apology, or for forgiveness. Waiting for something good.
The Advent season is centered around the people of god who were also in waiting, many years ago. Waiting, in particular, for the birth of Jesus. It had been so long since God had showed up, and the people were losing hope. Darkness seemed to be closing in. But not for much longer.
Wendell Berry once said, profoundly, that “It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born.” And that is good news.
The incarnation of the divine in Jesus Christ serves as a radiant torch for ALL of creation. The light of Jesus shines so brightly that it can never be extinguished, no matter how hard we may try. And what hope we have in a God who knows our darkness! He knows the frail and vulnerable darkness of the womb, he knows the fear-saturated darkness that comes with the tomb, and every darkness in between.
Often in the advent season, when I think of the implications of Jesus birth, my thoughts drift to the picturesque nativity scene. And though I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the savior of the world, I think I often focus too much on the serenity of the nativity and too little on the scandal of the incarnation.
Because the truth is, the incarnation IS quite scandalous. God who for so long would not even show his face to us, lest we die, made himself “flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (Peterson). He enters this world as a brown-skinned baby boy, born to unwed refugees in a dirty old manger, with the vision to reveal the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
So much hope can be found in the way that Jesus lived and calls us to live as well. Jesus loves people in a way they have never been loved before. He does not shy away from suffering but goes toward it. He spends his time with the people who society has pushed to the margins. Jesus seeks out people who are blind and helps them to see. He makes sick people well and helps the lame to walk again. He makes foreigners feel at home. He makes women feel empowered. He has harsh words for the religious elite who value law and status over grace and forgiveness. He sets the captives free. Jesus cares about wholeness. Jesus longs for Shalom.
So as I find myself reflecting here at the end of a year that often felt empty, and void, a year in which darkness could be found around every corner, I am asking myself this question: What if, right now, the spirit of God is once again hovering in the deep, looking down on our chaos and turmoil, waiting to create something new?
Grace and Peace.
John 1 – The Message (Eugene Peterson)