Photo credit, Pexels: Adonyi Gábor
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other- things that are of no real consequence- the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside.”Dietrech Bonhoeffer
A few days ago, Larry came in from hanging the Christmas lights on the newly painted house.
He said, “this guy was walking by with a dog, and he said he used to live here.”
I say, “In our house?” (mind you, we’ve been here almost 33 years)
“Yeah, it was his grandmother’s at the time, and he lived with her for a while. In fact, his son was born here, but that was a long time ago, and now he lives in South Carolina. He said his dad still lives around the corner, and he came out to care for him.”
“I remember his grandmother. She dropped by in her new Cadillac after we bought the house. She wanted to see what we changed.”
I imagine the house was not as he remembered. New color, added rooms, and modernized throughout, but I also imagine it was much the same, and those old stories from his time living in this space are probably still rattling around in his brain.
And that’s what I want to talk about. The radical aspects of advent, how it opens doors, not the ones decorated with a wreath, the ones with bars, the ones that imprison you.
Advent is upon us once again, and the interesting thing about this word is we adopted it from the Latin word adventus, which means arrival. Traditionally speaking, it’s about waiting in glorious hope for Christ to appear not only in the nativity but in our hearts and, most of all, for Christ’s encore performance, often referred to as his second coming.
Christmas is both a story and an invitation. It is a story about hope and the possibility of a new world order based on compassion, forgiveness, and love, but also an invitation that was written directly to us.
What if the thing we’re waiting for is not something that can be purchased at the mall, on Black Friday, or on Cyber Monday? What if the thing we’re waiting for is something that we adopt?
Because honestly, I’m sick of the old stories rattling around in my brain. You know the ones? She’s loud, obnoxious, self-focused, overly sensitive, she drinks too much, she’s hurtful, stubborn, unforgiving, uninformed, and on and on it goes.
Rarely do you hear a story about one’s sacrifices, compassion, kindness, optimism, gentle heart, service, or ability to validate others, to listen, to evolve?
Sadly, we like to focus on each other’s faults, unless you’re my sister, who we all refer to as angelic. The truth is you will never know the fullness of someone’s pain or suffering because we tend to camouflage those experiences with silence, half-truths, or outright lies.
I know I do.
We’re an opinionated species. We rarely agree on anything, especially our memories. Remember the stories that circled your thanksgiving table (or any family dinner) and how everyone’s recall of the same event was radically different. Depending on the pitch, anyone’s life can be a raging success or a dismal failure.
But what is most true?
I’m beginning to think it’s unimportant. It’s like watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver and holding Ken Osmond [Eddie Haskell] hostage to a mischievous and two-faced narrative. He was playing a part. Right? Aren’t we all?
What is important is what you do next.
And it’s not for anyone else to decide? Screw them. You get to decide who you want to be. How you want to act. And who you want in your life. And I totally agree. It’s not simple. We’re too interconnected, culturally defined, and woefully indoctrinated to make it simple. But untangle all the perceived “obligations,” and it’s just you and an unimagined future.
Maybe Advent is an opportunity to adopt a new story about yourself. The one that you have grown into and to dump the one you’ve been dragging around, the one that no longer fits, the one you’ve been told.
Not that it didn’t happen, but it’s no longer relative or a true depiction of who you are today.
It takes enormous courage and bravery to accept a new portrayal of yourself because we are constantly reminded of what others think of us. And that’s just bullshit. If we could silence the voices in our heads and let go of the labels we’ve been assigned and the harsh judgments…we could forge a new future, the one we’re waiting for, the one we crucified Jesus for suggesting was possible.
Yes, that’s how attached we are to our old stories.
Maybe Advent is a time to get quiet and listen. Let new words form around your soul. Start with I am good. I am loveable. I am worthy.
Think about this, every time you open your mouth, you are spreading darkness or light. I just returned from the desert, and I have seen how darkness is dispelled when the light arrives. It’s referred to as sunrise, and we never tire of it.
I don’t care what you think about God, if God is just a story we won’t let go of, or if God is still influencing (pushing his way into) our world. But let me just say this, no one expected Jesus. He was born at the most unlikely of times, in an unlikely place, and the words out of his mouth were ones of radical change. They were challenging, illuminating, and, dare I say, “life-saving.”
We are living in difficult times, the collective rage is gaining on the collective love, and yet we continue to throw millions of dollars at material objects in a desperate attempt to redeem ourselves, to celebrate the birth of a child to an unwed mother, one who from all accounts was poor, from the wrong side of town, and yet we’re still talking about him. Why? Because we need hope. I’m talking prodigious hope. More than our iPhones, credit cards, and politicians are able to give us.
What if this year, we forget all the wrappings of Christmas and reach for the real message?
We don’t have to live with our old story. There is another possibility. It’s fairly good news because, from my perspective, God is not going to stop, retreat, or give up on us. God is the mother of all mothers with a bunch of unruly kids. But it’s also not going to happen the way we have it mapped out. It’s not going to happen in the prison of our old stories.
It going to be miraculous because that is how God rolls.
It’s going to be such a wild, unbelievable tale that you will find it hard to recognize yourself in the words. This is what advent is all about, adopting a new narrative and seeing yourself from the perspective of the one who loves you umbilically, unconditionally, and for all eternity. God is not done with you by a long shot, and I believe God wants us all to know…
We are good. We are loveable. We are worthy.
This year let’s go out and gift each other with a new personification. Be the one that lets your light shine before others, that they may see your goodness, and in hearing you, they hear the voice of all that is good and holy. And somehow, by the miracle of you, they are able to adopt a new story, a new future, a new vision of who they really are and who they were meant to be.
Now that’s worth talking about!
I’m still Living in the Gap, but I’m feeling the need to hibernate for a while, come back when the winter in me thaws. How about you? Thank you for reading, responding, digging deeper, and adding so much to our mutual conversation. May I be so bold as to say, I love you, and may these next few weeks be ones of revelation, courage, and radical change.
My book is NOW available at Black Rose for preorder! If you are compelled to purchase a book or two prior to the publication date of February 23, 2023, Grow Damn It!: The Feeding and Nurturing of Life, you get to use the promo code: PREORDER2022 to receive a 15% discount. Your pre-ordered copy will process and ship on or prior to the release date. So you get it first! Whoot! Hoot! This might be a proper occasion for champagne!