I was sitting in the doctor’s office this week, waiting for my turn, when I heard the man ahead of me ask the doctor, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Her response warmed my heart. “Good heavens, no! We’ve still got 2 weeks!”
Two weeks to finish the shopping and the wrapping, the addressing and the mailing. Two weeks to finish the baking and the decorating, the caroling and the year-end giving. Two weeks to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord. Wow.
There is a way in which we are never ready for Christmas, never ready for the surprise of the Incarnation, of the Word made flesh. Advent, with its troubling series of scripture texts, gives us a taste of disruption, but also hope. God coming to be among us, to be one of us is a major disruption of the status quo.
Mary reflects that in the Magnificat, as she visits her cousin Elizabeth.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed ;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
From generation to generation.
He has shown the strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
According to the promise he made to our ancestors,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.
The Magnificat is a hymn to transformation, and to justice, sung by a young woman just plucked from obscurity. Was she ready for what was ahead? Certainly not. And yet God chose her to carry the child. God entrusted her to nurture and protect God’s own self, in the form of a baby.
I just learned that a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not what she was planning for this Advent. And yet, there it is, shattering her plans, redirecting her energy and the prayers of those who love her. Her diagnosis has thrown a wrench into plans. But it has also re-focused Advent on what really matters.
No matter how organized we are, not matter how much we plan ahead, we can never fully prepare for God coming among us. We are never really ready for Christmas. And that’s as it should be.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA