When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Can you imagine Joseph’s surprise? Good grief, what was God doing while I was busy making plans for God to come? For generations, my people have been looking for a Savior, planning for that moment, when the King would enter triumphantly. What were we expecting? Well, of course, we were expecting someone obvious, someone who would make himself known in the world, someone who is a little bit better than you or I. We were expecting power and might and grandiose presentation. But instead God walked into our very human existence. God traversed time and space and the perceived separation between the sacred and the ordinary and entered our everyday world. On some level, that bothers many of us. After all, we are trying to do BETTER than this; we are aspiring to be more than human. What in the world is God doing messing around in the muck of this world?
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that “by virtue of the creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” So, perhaps God came into this very ordinary world to show us the holiness that has been created, the sacredness that in our worldliness, we were somehow missing. Perhaps God steps into our lives to show us the depth that we haven’t dared to dig into our lives. Perhaps God came and walked with us not to show us how to be but to show us how to see. But when it’s all said and done, this practice we have of “looking for God” has been proven bizarre. After all, it was never God that was lost! We were never separated from the sacred; we just missed seeing it because it wasn’t what we were expecting. So, again, what were we expecting? Maybe the the whole lesson is that God will come when and where and in the way that God will come. But if there’s a “pattern” to be figured out about this God who cannot be figured out, it’s that God comes into the unexpected, into the unplanned, and into the unprepared places in our lives and lays down in a feed trough and patiently waits for the world to wake up and notice.
While we were busy looking up, with grand plans for “our Savior”, the God who was on “our side”, God slipped in to the bowels of the world and promised redemption for not just those who were busily looking for God, but the whole world. The whole world? The WHOLE world, all of Creation, all of existence. Maybe the reason that God started where God started was that the rest of us were looking beyond where we should be looking, busily looking for someone to complete what we had started, to validate that what we were doing was right, to raise us up beyond the muck of the world. But God, even at this moment, descends into places we would rather shake away. While we were busy looking up, searching for the star in the sky, God descended into humanity.
Maybe we were trying to be something we were not. Maybe we were overreaching a bit. But God, God comes into our world not to validate us, not to complete us, but to re-create us. God is good at starting us over, making us new, giving us eyes to see what we have been missing all along. This human God, this God who laid down in a feed trough, this God who loves everyone humbles us at best. Who are we that we have such lofty expectations as to think that we are beyond loving someone like us? Who are we that we missed the holiness in front of us, the sacredness within us, the piece of the Divine that walks beside us even when we don’t notice? Who are we that we thought ourselves capable of “finding God” without first looking for the God who is always with us, Emmanuel? Who are we that we thought God would come in the way we expected rather than the way that we needed for Life? Who are we that we missed our Life? Who are we that we missed our God? Maybe we should lower our expectations to a feed trough on the outskirts of power and strength and achievement. Because there, not only will we find God, but the “we” that we were all along.
In this final week of Advent (WHAT?!? THERE’S ONLY A WEEK?) , we are all busy preparing for the day of God’s coming. But whether or not we get it done, whether or not the house is clean or the goodies are baked or the presents are wrapped, God will come and the world will never be the same. Expectation is about moving into what will be rather than preparing for what we expect.
What wondrous Love is this, O my soul, O my soul, what wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous Love is this that caused the Lord of life to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul, to lay aside his crown for my soul. (USA Folk Hymn)
FOR TODAY: Lower your expectations. Look at your life. Look at your self. See the God who walks with you in the holiness of days.
Grace and Peace,