By Shannon Youell
In the midst of Advent—the season where we reflect upon God-with-Us in the incarnation of Jesus, in His kingdom both now and yet to come, through his Spirit, and through the expectation of Jesus the King coming again to rule and reign in the new heavens and earth forever—we can find ourselves once again asking, how do we rest in the wonder of this miraculous event? The demands of the season have us rushing through malls, to parties, to surpassing our neighbour’s outdoor light display, all of which compels us to spend more money on more things that we likely didn’t really need in the first place.
I love this quote from an unknown source: “Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush rather than a last–minute rush.” At first glance, this appears to be an oxymoron: how can we possibly rest and find quiet to listen and reflect when there are so many expectations upon us? No wonder we miss the expectation and the wonder of this time, replacing it with the idol of consumerism that distracts us from Jesus as our Lord and the Savior of the world.
The cultural norms of today have deflected our expectancy far away from the Advent Expectancy and we have unconsciously allowed it to become a lord in our life that displaces Jesus as Lord of all and sets His Lordship as a side dish to the Christmas Feast.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are reminded that God is bringing “all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). He is bringing all things together so that all things are one. One God, One body, together sharing One-ness in our With-Ness. Residing within that oneness we find hope, peace, joy and a love that surpasses all human understanding.
What does Advent and the Christmas celebration look like through the lens of One-ness, of our God-With-Us? I imagine it looks a lot like the Shema, the “Hear, O People of God” that Jesus exhorted as the most important thing to lean into if we truly want to be faithfully present in our lives, our work, our neighbourhoods and our places of worship and gathering: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
This is the journey we are on, in all seasons of course, but in this one season, celebrating the birth, the habitation of God-With-Us on earth, this one we take back from the distortions, distractions and misdirections and reframe it in the very words of Jesus, our Lord and Savior in this world where God has been and is bringing all things back together again.