It snowed today.
I hate to see the snow because once you see the snow, there’s no way to live in denial about the coming of winter. And I hate winter. I mean I really hate it… hate it with a white hot hate. I hate having to wear a coat, I hate having to drive in the snow, but most of all I just really hate being cold.
So of course it was all over facebook, as if my well-meaning friends were rubbing the virtual snow in my face. And of course I got sucked into a conversation about it. In this case, I got into one of those comment-conversations where it goes on and on, and you wonder if the other people who were unfortunate enough to also have commented (once) are getting mad about all the emails they keep getting with the comment updates.
But in this case, it was also a conversation with a good friend who is Italian, and we were holding the conversation in Italian, which was fun. Now, just so we’re clear, this friend of mine is from Italy, so she’s fluent. I’m from Milwaukee. So you see, my Italian is not really up to speed to hold a conversation with a native speaker. Don’t get me wrong, I can get by. If I’m in Rome, and there’s an emergency, I can find the gelato. But anyway, I was expressing my Scrooginess at the new fallen snow, when finally, after the conversation had gone on for a while, another Italian speaker put the whole thing in perspective. I was humbled to have missed the point that, even though snow means winter, winter means Christmas.
But it’s not just Christmas, if that word brings to mind crowded malls with piped in “holiday” songs, and that feeling you get when you dressed for the outside (heavy coat and scarf) but you’re in the mall and you’re feeling hot and claustrophobic in your own coat and you’re standing on the escalator and all at once you get a birds-eye view of the store and all the people running around and you have an existential moment when you ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” That’s certainly not what I mean by Christmas. In fact, I’m going to stop using the word “Christmas” for a while, because it just makes me think of extra-loud TV commercials with Santa Claus trying to sell me something. Instead, I’m going to talk about the incarnation.
The incarnation is what we’re talking about when we say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Or “For unto us a Child is born… and His name shall be called Emmanuel which means, ‘God with us’” (Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 7:14/Matthew 1:23). The incarnation is the reality that God cares about us – loves us, even. And because of that, God reaches out to us.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, which is kind of like the New Year’s Day of the liturgical calendar. So just when everything is getting cold and looking dead, something new is dawning. That’s the paradox of the coming of Christ. He is the rose that blooms in the desert, the seed that begins new life unseen under the snow. Maybe that’s the idea I was going for in a song I wrote called, Autumn (you can see the lyrics at this link).
In Spiritual Blueprint, I talk about the paradox of the Christian faith, in a chapter called, “Kosher Bacon.” Jesus Christ himself is a paradox, in his dual natures as human and divine, and as the servant King. And we as Christians are a paradox, as forgiven sinners. I guess the juxtaposition of winter and Christmas is also a paradox.
So what’s the point, you ask? If you mean beyond the obvious fact that winter makes me crabby, I think the point is that God is all about giving us hope, even in the midst of the desert, or the frozen wasteland, as it were. Are you in a particularly cold place in life? Maybe spiritually you feel like you’re snowshoeing your way across Siberia. Maybe you feel like you’re descending that escalator into the chaos of the holidays and you’re being choked by your own scarf. Maybe you feel like you’re on some old metal saucer screaming down an ice-covered hill, and you can’t stop or turn. If that’s you, know this: God is in the hope business. And not just hope that you’ll “get though it,” but the hope of rising above it.
For Christians, the concrete evidence of God’s love, and God’s initiative in reaching out to humanity, is Jesus. It’s the paradox of the divine Agent of creation setting aside divine power to come into the world as a helpless baby. The omnipotent One took on the frailty of the human condition. The omnipresent One became localized in time and space. The omniscient One submitted himself to humans, in order to reach out to us, and save us. He took our curse, so we could have his blessing (Galatians 3:13-14).
In the midst of rushing toward Christmas, I hope we can appreciate Advent, and “prepare the way of the Lord,” so that we can welcome Him again.