We make a habit of calling this season “the Advent,” not just “Christmas,” to re-center us on God’s mission to rescue us through grace. God’s grace is not a sweet thought or nice idea, much like a docile babe in a manger—it is His means of liberating the world (that’s us) from our inability to love God and others. Categories get smashed; paradigms get reversed. Formerly “good, nice people” come undone when they perceive their self-righteousness and anxious toil; formerly “bad, mean people” cry with joy that there is forgiveness to the uttermost and a new life ready to remake them.
If you’re looking to dignify your humanity and recover the holiness of this holiday, grasp that you were created to worship a God of matchless grace. See that all of our seasonal songs, nostalgic traditions, and aspirations for a “happy new year” are but shaded and partial notions. Among these, here is God, born to die, “born to give us second birth,” born into a world dark with injustice, ruined beauty, and destructive patterns at every level of human relationship. God, save us.
I really do believe that the whole sweep of human existence and the cosmos intersects profoundly and uniquely with a 1st century Nazarene. I believe in a God who, if He were going to pursue us, had to choose some context to be known in and through, for we’re contextually-bound beings. We didn’t receive a technicolor spirit-being as the savior of mankind. We got a baby born to refugee parents, an itinerant teacher who made the “thoughts from many hearts [to be] revealed”, and a savior who submissively receives a cruel death in the stead of the unequivocally evil thief and the socially decent sinner alike. We got a man who receives worship like He’s God. We got a God who demonstrates His glory and power through silent suffering for enemies. We got a God who pleads for a way out of dying for rebellious people, concedes that there is no greater joy set before him, and bleeds, and bleeds. We got a God who rose up, never to die again, with a body that could be touched and could ingest and enjoy a piece of broiled fish. We got a God who dignifies our material existence and restores the wholeness and beauty we know we’ve lost and cannot recover on our own. We got a mediator of forgiveness forever. We got God, coming for us. That’s the Advent.