“Adventus” means coming. Christians believe that Advent is not only the beginning of the liturgical year; we also believe that it is the beginning and the end of our spiritual posture before God. Advent sets us on our way to hope in the promise that Jesus came to save, and will come again to judge. To our joy, we discover that in faith Christ’s judgment is our salvation.
God is coming to be with us is a message as old as human existence as told in the Bible. In Genesis 3:8, we read, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”
Awareness of God’s presence is not a welcome realization! It seems that Adam and Eve’s response to “God with us” was to hide. I suppose that we share their dread, because we have been hiding from God since the beginning of our own awaking that God is with us. We sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel”, yet, our hearts whisper, “not yet, not now”! Quick, cover our shame!
We fear God’s judgment of our limitless cravings that bend us to mere self-satisfactions. Yet, like a child whose bravery insists that she is able to stand and to run on her own, quickly loses her courage when she discovers she has run too far, and run out of sight of Mom and Dad. She discovers that she has lost the arms of security and found the embrace of despair.
While on one hand we fear Immanuel, “God with us”, as condemnation of our willfulness, on the other hand we fear, “God with us”, as a loss of freedom. Immanuel exposes our freedom as bondage to self as solitary confinement that separates us from any contentment in fellowship with others and with God, The OTHER.
We are filled with dreadful discontent that exposes our broken sacred image of God. He is coming. We wait. He arrives with healing in His wings! He is born that we no more may die. He gives us second birth. Our image is reclaimed and restored in His coming.
As a child I remember the thrill of hiding from my mother’s watchful eyes.
Freed from her sentry, my brothers and I would run to the creek to dive naked into its warm splendid wetness. We would splash and have water fights. I would swing from a rope and fly to free fall into the open arms of sky and water.
Oh, no! I hit a tree buried in the creek’s soft bottom. Bloodied, and full of fear, I sprang from the water running for home. Running for mother! My brother caught up with me and shook me. “Are you crazy? You’re OK! It’s just a scratch! Mother will punish us, when she sees your foolish, broken face.
I shouted in pain, and rage, and guilt, and faith, and hope, “I’m going home!” I ran as fast as I could. Naked, bleeding, I threw my bloody body into my mother’s lap! I looked up into the eyes of Immanuel, “God with us”, judgment and salvation.
O come, O come, Immanuel! Amen!