We walked this morning, faces to the ground, looking at the newly laid concrete tiles that formed our path. The light was bright and harsh, though muted a bit by the gritty skies that still linger. No blue in sight.
We took a family picture down by the water's edge, only one more to go in our twelve installments of The Twelve Project. It too showed all of us, heads down, some looking at lapping water, some at children's heads, some for avoiding glare in the eyes. But viewing it later, it seemed so somber, everyone bent on the earth like that.
It seems a bit like these Advent days can be. Bent over, looking at the stuff of the earth, when you feel like the heavenly things are bright, but maybe a bit too glaring. You've heard the Story told oh so many times, and the angel voices singing, and the joyful sounds, and yet the world at your feet just seems too real, and a bit too bleak. I was thinking of a family leaving our city soon, these holidays must be filled with little that seems wonderful for them just now. My in-laws had to cancel their plans to come for Christmas, due to an emergency surgery and the necessary recovery time. It's good that it did not happen while they were here. But it still stings of broken down bodies and plans that we can't make happen.
There was a quote this morning. Something about "Christians are joyful, not because they turn a blind eye to suffering and injustice, but because they look to a Reality that rests sure underneath it all." There is a lot to unpack there (not an exact quote either). It's true we don't gaze stupidly at heavenly realities while all this broken stuff goes on down here. But can you drum up excitement over God with Us and mangers and shepherds when it seems so distant from the dirt at your feet?
This, I think is the true beauty and joy of Advent. You need not drum up anything at all. It is not trying to re-create a picture perfect Christmas setting. It is not trying to feel the same kind of joy and excitement over Jesus in a manger year after year.
It is telling yourself the Truth about Immanuel, in the midst of your utterly earthy circumstances. Perhaps some years the telling will bring joy, some years surrender, some years hope, some years wonder, some years sadness, some years longing, and maybe some years it will just go silently by, not making any visible ripples, but building up strength in the soul bones. He seems to be a fan of silent years. Must be a special kind of work that can be done.