November 27th begins the season of Advent. For 28 days, we journey to the manger where we experience God’s presence become flesh and dwelling among us. God’s good news takes human form to tell us we are not left alone in this life. Emanuel, God with us, comes to us. It is a life-changing story that we enter at this time of year.
This year, I wonder how we will get there. It seems now with the branding of Christmas that there are many other paths to Christmas Day. For some, Christmas is now about what sits under the tree after searching at length for presents we may or may not need. Encountering God’s life-transforming presence seems less interesting if it is even remembered as the story of this season.
The basic definition of Advent means the coming or arrival of a notable person, thing or event. As Christians, we know how our familiar story ends (or begins) with God arriving through poor, unknown parents in a back alley of a small city. In a poem unrelated to Advent yet very pertinent, T.S. Eliot speaks about being in a familiar place and yet exploring it until we arrive at the same place and know it in new ways. He writes,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
We know the destination of Christmas, but what path will we take in our travels through Advent to the manger and Christmas Day? Jesus’ own words in his Sermon on the Mount can be helpful: seek and we will find. We find God’s way in the midst of searching for it. We find God’s dream for us when we follow the Way of hope, peace, joy and love.
What if we take that path, a path less traveled this season? Let’s search for the manger using God’s Way of hope, peace, joy and love as if they are points on a compass and we are seeking ways to live authentic and faithful lives to a story that has transformed us and wants to do so again. What might we see in an otherwise routine and annual story? What unexpected turns will we take? What stops will we make along the way?
I’m looking forward to our journey together and what God will reveal to us along the way and on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to searching for God’s Way this Advent and the ways God will make us living examples of God’s presence in the world.