“Just can’t wait for Christmas!” Well you’ll just have to, but ‘how you wait’ is important. Advent is a season of patient waiting and hopeful expectation. But, all too easily we slot into a familiar route and rut to, and through, Christmas running on autopilot. We can easily miss the seasonal surprising wonder of ‘God moving into the neighbourhood’, humble and vulnerable, entering our world under the radar of the proud and powerful. God shrinks to foetus, baby and child, placed in the hands of two unlikely teenagers, born to save a world craving His Love.
In view of the astonishing, mind boggling, gobsmacking plan Mary and Joseph were privy to and obediently enacted, Advent is a time to expect and anticipate the ‘unexpected’. Not in a pessimistic Scottish ‘new Covid variant’ “We’re doomed ah tell you!” sort of way, rather in a Hebrew “God of Surprise Open My Eyes!” kind of way. That’s not to say such openhearted prayer won’t lead to difficulty and challenge, indeed it may lead into territory far from your comfort zone. But the critical underlying assumption of such seeking of God’s Will is that God does want the very best for us!
In Matthew’s Gospel chapter one is a staggering family tree for Jesus’ stepdad Joseph. It includes 4 women, 3 of which were willing to prostitute themselves to get their way (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) and a saintly Ruth. At least 2, if not all 4 women, were foreign to Judaism, yet they are included in a long line of males that stretch back to ancient Abraham. Matthew can’t even bring himself to personally name ‘Bathsheba’, calling her ‘Uriah The Hittite’s wife’, such is his disdain for her flaunting herself before King David, who in turn had his wicked way with her. Matthew fanfares Jesus coming to redeem such humanity and re-connect us with our Maker, by including the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, all people and peoples.
Joseph and Mary provide saintly succour and supervision for King Jesus, birthed far from home in humble surrounds and forced to flee violent threat as asylum seeking refugees. Nativity plays can be great celebrations of the Christmas Story and children open us up to the ‘wide-eyed wonder’ of God’s great Gift in Jesus, but romanticism can mist and obscure the shocking nature of Christ’s birth and the far-reaching extent of God’s rescue mission for the needy and vulnerable, folk on the fringes and mainstream of society.
So will you join me in a daily, hourly, or even more regular, Advent prayer, “God of Surprise Open My Eyes!” to consider afresh the wonder of ‘God becoming like us that we might become like him’; to find opportunities to join Jesus alongside the least, last, lonely, left-out, lost, fearful and forgotten, as well as our own families and friends. Active waiting: expecting the unexpected of God’s Generosity in, to and through us! “God of Surprise Open My Eyes!”