Saturday, December 03, 2005

O Come Emanuel

I am reading Donald Miller's popular book Blue Like Jazz right now and really loving it. It's so refreshing to read an unapologetically Christian reflection that isn't icky-pious and doesn't have a political agenda and isn't trying to prove a point in some dry intellectual way and isn't trying to do anything but share a person's spiritual struggle.

(You thought I was going to say spiritual journey, didn't you? Well, I didn't because I made a pact with myself recently that I wasn't going to use the word "journey" or the word "dance" as a metaphor for the struggle for spiritual growth. I'm just tired of 'em both. Overdone to death.)

Miller tells a story that both he and I both suspect might be apocryphal, about a team of Navy SEALS busting through the door to save a group of American hostages, who were so traumatized that they could not trust the men enough to get up and leave with them. It wasn't until one of the Navy SEALS got down on the floor and curled up next to one of the hostages that they got the idea that this was their people, and that they were being rescued. Getting down on the floor and curling up next to them was something the hostages knew their captors would never have done.

Miller makes an analogy between the Navy SEAL and God (talk about strange bedfellows!) getting down next to us in a little curled up ball of compassion and empathy in the form of Jesus. I thought that worked pretty well for me as an Advent reflection, as I spend much of this season thinking about what the world would have been like if Jesus had not been born as he was, and if the ideals he incarnated had remained divine little flecks through the universe as they are now, without a sacred story and religious tradition to enact and remember and worship them again and again.

Would the world be a better, more peaceful place if these godly beings (and this One in particular) did not take on flesh and dwell among us? Without the life of Christ, would the world be a more whole, less divided and frightened, place? Have we failed so miserably to live faithfully to the vision of the Kingdom that Christians past and present have actually, in a hard, cold real sense, made the world less blessed and holy?

If so -- and of course it is something that could never be proved either way -- I hope we will not forget that crazy, locust-eater John, who leads us into the season of Advent with his raging call to repentance and awe, and his reminder of how desperately we need the one who comes to us at Christmas.


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