I’m not sure if I am ready for Christmas this year. 2020 has overindulged me with food for Advent, the period of preparation leading up to Christmas. Never have I found it so natural to enter into this season of watching for God to come as in the midst of this year’s political turmoil, social unrest, cataclysmic weather, and global loss of stability, community, and life. A weary world cries out for a Savior, whether under the guise of a vaccine, a candidate, a policy, or a donation. And my soul joins the cry: Hosanna! O save us!
But my longing is tempered by the sobering thought that we may not be ready to receive what we ask for. If God showed up on earth today, would we welcome His coming any better than those who failed to receive Him 2020 years ago? Would we be willing to have our lifestyles, our our social structures, and our economic interests overturned by His radically different ways? Am I ready (and willing) to turn over my personal plans, my property, my time, my relationships, and my body to His way of doing things?
Such radical relinquishment of control rattles what little sense of security I have left at the end of this destabilizing year. It forces the question: Who do I really want to be in charge? Whose rule would I truly welcome in my life and my world?
As our family has worked our way through Advent readings from the Prophets and Gospels, our Christmas warm fuzzies have been replaced with sober self-reflection. Their message repeats: God does not show up on human terms. If we invoke His presence in our world, we need to understand what it is we are asking for. We are inviting the Refiner’s Fire to burn away our dross. I am asking the Judge who sees my hidden agendas and petty indulgences to lay them bare. This is the process through which He makes all things new. He exposes what is wrong and then catches it up in His merciful arms to change it until it is right.
Am I ready to receive what I am asking for?
And yet can I afford not to ask for it?
As I sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” images flash through my mind of Covid patients fighting a losing battle for breath and landscapes devastated by wind, fire, and flood. I see communities divided by mistrust and anger, individuals torn apart by mental illness and addiction, and families separated by conflict, war, politics, quarantine, and death. We have done our best to rule the world under our own steam, and 2020 has shown us how well that goes.
I identify with the rich young ruler, wanting to receive the gift of God’s kingdom and yet vacillating on the threshold of what it will cost me. I’m not sure I am ready for Christmas this year. But I am sure that I can trust the One whose coming I anticipate and hasten. His arm is strong to save and gentle to restore. His ways are not like ours, and for that I am increasingly grateful.
So yes. Come, Lord Jesus.