It’s official now: The great pageant has begun, and we are all settling into our roles. Maybe you’re not a shepherd or angel this year but a decorator or chef. Maybe your role is to balance schedules or budgets. Or you might be the one who rallies the family for the Christmas portrait or sends the cards to addresses long-changed. We all have our roles in the pageant and usually more than one. At some time or another we will all participate in the ancient tradition of running hither and yon, with at least one or two trips back to yon when we realize what we forgot when we came hither. It all seems crazy and is all less choreographed than it should be, but it is all part of the pageant nonetheless.
As crazy as it seems, there really is something appropriate to it all. In all our hustle-bustle, we are acting out the meaning of Advent. OK, it might not feel that way as you are sitting in shopping traffic, but, yes, in our own strange ways we are living the mystery of the Advent season.
We are waiting for Christmas. And waiting for Christmas is an active, even anxious, process. Christmas is, after all, the wondrous mystery of our faith that launches the story that is our story. It is the Incarnation—God with us. It is the great moment when God makes our world and our human lives the divine dwelling place. It is the great pouring out of heaven, the arrival of the Messiah, the Savior. It is the gentle human touch of divine and transforming love.
The story began millennia ago. For centuries the people waited anxiously, praying, looking heavenward for the great Deliverer and expecting God’s glorious power to be revealed. Now, we relive it all, rushing about in our own waiting, preparing noisily for the great celebration.
But then comes the twist in the story.
The one for whom generations waited came not with noisy flourish, but with the quiet of Christmas morning. Without glory, without pomp, the Messiah was born hungry and squalling into a world of poverty and longing.
And so, we take our place in the pageant. We will run around in a frantic dither. We will play our part in the mystery and act out our preparations for the great celebration. And then, to our eternal surprise, we will find the truth of Christmas in the face of a child, the voice of a friend or the flicker of a candle’s flame on Christmas Eve. There. It is quiet. And it is wondrous. And it is as real as the starkest reality of human life. And it can fill our hearts and our world with hope and compassion