By the Rev. Paul Graves
Do you remember the lead-up to Christmas when you were a child? If you now have children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, what do you recall the lead-up to Christmas being for you as a grown-up? Did you ever feel like the days and weeks before Christmas were just upside-down?
Advent seems like that, with all the preparations we seem compelled to make for Dec. 24 and 25. But the real “upside-down-ness” of Advent began long before our cultural Christmas twists came along. These weeks of upside-down preparedness, of being alert, began over 2,000 years ago.
All newborns turn our lives upside-down. But the stable scene in Bethlehem 2,100 years ago started a deeper, more radical, form of upside-down life that we still don’t live with all that well.
From his legendary conception until now, Jesus was and is a full-fledged radical, for sure. He was radical (extreme) because his actions and attitude were extreme as he challenged the politically correct and religiously correct persons of his day.
But that’s only because he was radical (root-deep) in the sense of coming from the taproot, the source, of Life.
Jesus didn’t wait until his public ministry to become radical. His birth was a radical departure from the typical kingly birth. The delivery room was a stable.
Are your imaginations in gear? If so, step with me inside that stable-cave so we can eavesdrop on what might be happening: the only guests are animals and some smelly shepherds — and our imaginations. If our hearts listen carefully, we might hear the baby whisper of the radical mystery of Life and what his role in that mystery will be like:
Our Heavenly Father knows it is time to remind you and all humanity that He is profoundly serious that LIFE be lived as it has always been meant to live.
That’s why I am here. Your ancestors didn’t take seriously any of the other Life-signs God offered them. They needed touchable, more familiar signs. That is why I was here for them. That is why I am here for you.
Please don’t be deceived by your ways of celebrating Christmas. Christmas is much more than being with loved ones or even giving consumable or breakable gifts to people who have less than you have.
The joy and hope you speak of during the Advent and Christmas seasons are a very good start. But as God’s Radical Host, I welcome you to a new, deeper level of living in God’s world.
The experience of Life I welcome you to is sketched out in my mother Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-55. You know them as the Magnificat.
Read them again, carefully, confessionally. Can you now understand anew that God is very serious about leveling the playing field, closing the gaps between the haves & have-nots, the rich & poor, the powerful & weak?
God did not create this world for there to be any gaps between people, or between people and the earth. Those gaps are your doing, not God’s!
My role as your Host is to love you and challenge you and love you again, over and over and over. Your role as guest is to decide how you will choose to respond to my love and my challenge.
As God’s Radical Host, I want you to become as whole, as complete a person as God initially created you to be. Come to me and I can show you, teach you about being whole, also about being a radical host to those whom you meet. Then it is up to you!
Advent: a season for waking up to the upside-down love of God for us, for all persons, for the earth. Thank God!
The Rev. Paul Graves serves as the chair of the Conference Council on Older Adult Ministries for the PNWUMC.