Christ is the embodiment of Advent.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~ John 1:14
Jesus takes on human form to make visible hope, peace, joy, and love. With a human face, name and a story, God in the flesh makes truth palpable enough to eat and drink. This truth brings both healing and division because not everyone can swallow the message he brings. This truth also brings questioning when we experience a severe lack of hope, peace, joy, and love or when we experience these things outside our Christian tradition.
In him was life and that life was the light for all mankind. ~ John 1:4
The incarnation enables us to engage these questions and embody Advent ourselves in the midst of a pluralistic world. How? Because the God with us, now lives through us making, empowering us by the Holy Spirit to embody all that this world longs for.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God ~ John 1:12
May we also keep in mind the Advent season is one of significant and beautiful diversity. Jesus followers will be celebrating Advent, however, some of our fellow humans will be celebrating Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, and many more traditions. But this isn’t unlike the beginning. Jesus was born to Hebrew parents, visited by the Magi who came from distant lands and grew up in Egypt. And yet, many Christ-followers today feel threatened by such diversity and say “Merry Christmas” not with a message that embodies hope but one that is armored for battle as the other side throws their secular “Happy Holiday” grenades at us. But it’s all a pointless argument and a loss in living out the embodied message that Christ himself models for us. My friends, Christmas is not in competition with anyone and neither is Christ. However, the incarnation isn’t also just one of many options in our “choose your own adventure” story. We still have to live out our faith in a pluralistic world without diluting it for the sake of tolerance or fear of offending someone. The incarnation is universal in nature, inviting all to come and see and sit by the manger side, it is not a universalist message. Christ comes embodying what we all long for, from the white Evangelical Christian to the brown Indian Hindu. Yet, we are both guilty of not recognizing him.
…though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. ~ John 1:10
The challenge I bring this Advent season is that we seek to embody hope, peace, joy, and love through Christ in our pluralistic world. That we don’t see these other traditions as competition or threats to our Nativity scenes but instead, be little Christs* in manger scenes all over the world surrounded by faces that don’t look like us. When we put Jesus in a tiny box and convince ourselves that Christ is only seen through certain traditions, we miss the opportunity to recognize Him in the world that He himself wasn’t threatened by, even as a helpless babe.
Over the next four Sundays of Advent, I will be exploring how Christ’s incarnation embodied hope, peace, joy, and love in the world without diluting his message or turning it into a hammer. Each week will include a short teaching, a few questions, and an activity. I pray that this series not only strengthens your faith in Christ but also strengthens your love of neighbor.
* Martin Luther reference: God is so in control that the good we do is really God’s work. We’re nothing but the hands of Christ, Luther asserted. In the good we do, we are just “little Christs” to each other.
This blog series is an overflow of all that I am learning in my World Religions class taught by Dr. Paul Louis Metzger. I wish every one of my family and friends could sit under his teaching and be challenged to think differently about how we engage people of other traditions.