Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting Ready for the Baby

This is the season of Advent – a season of joyful preparation and solemn anticipation. We know that the Child will come – but the season begins with portents of the end of time.

We know that at the end of all things, when the constructions of the last empire are down for good and all creation groans for redemption, our savior comes. He comes to judge and he comes to redeem.

He comes, not on our timetable, not when or where we want him to come, nor how. He does not come riding to our rescue in the last reel of the movie. Much as we want him to.

He comes to us, first, not in power and might, but in mystery and quiet.

He comes to us, he is already here.

Here, in our hearts – if we follow the one true God, adoring and worshipping him who created all things.

Here, in our hearts – if we ask him to come.

If we are ready.

On my mother’s kitchen bulletin board is a snapshot of a mother with three children, one standing and looking toward the camera, one squirming out of her lap, and another holding in his hand a cowboy hat on top of a stick. Why?

Because this is to be a photograph of my mother with all her children – and the one with the hat knows a fourth child is coming. So he represents the fourth child with a cowboy hat. He does not know much else about the coming child – he just knows that the child is coming and that the family is getting ready for the baby.

The family with the snapshot (you can see Dad’s shadow from behind the camera) knows they want their new member to be safe, and they want to get the stuff together they will need to welcome the baby. They are getting excited.

Maybe they will paint the baby’s room – not sure whether to paint it pink or blue they might paint it yellow or green. They are going to be getting gifts – things they will need to take care of the baby, things that will be fun or silly, toys for the baby to play with, or objects that it will admire.

They will want to nurture the baby. And they will be thinking about names.

Mary and Joseph had a slightly different situation. They knew some things about the baby that was on the way. In fact, a lot, if they had been reading the Hebrew Scriptures.

They had already received a suggestion of what to name the baby – Emmanuel, “God with us.” They probably counted on a boy. They certainly wondered if the baby would be safe. And if they had any ambitions about painting the baby’s room first they would need to know where that room would be.

They were soon to be amazed with an array of gifts. Gifts were coming that would tell them a lot about their baby – or confirm for them what they already suspected.

Strangers would deliver the gifts they were going to receive: first came shepherds and angels, and then Magi, wise people from the East who had “seen his star.” (Other visitors would come but they would come too late – and miss the baby.)

This baby was bound to cause excitement. All babies do. And each baby is special. This one had some extra excitement to generate.

The wise people came to adore him. They greeted him as King of the Jews.

Nobody else would call him that for a long time. And when anybody did again, it would be – a sign that he was not safe, and confirmation that his name really mattered and that he really was King.

But for now – there is a baby on the way.

A baby – not very royal looking at all. A baby – defenseless, quiet or crying, in need of nurture and safety and warmth, and in need of love.

A baby – in whom the hopes of all humanity are raised.

A baby…

The One who will come in power, the one who will bring with him the consummation of time – the Alpha and the Omega – first comes to us like this.

He comes to us, quiet, mysterious, in longing for us just as we are longing for him.

How shall we get ready for the baby?

+ for broadcast the first Sunday in Advent 2011


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