Saturday, December 3, 2022

Waiting in Traffic with Immanuel

It’s been a few days since I’ve written. I set out to write something last night, but before I would even begin to type, I felt my eyes drooping into sleep. . .

As the workdays end, I often feel like I have sufficient energy to tackle the evening with dinner-making, dishing-washing, and (this season) Advent-writing. But then I get into my car and head out on my commute home. By the time I’ve parked on my street, lethargy is seeping in. There are many reasons for this; chronic pain and the early setting sun don’t help. But this being Advent, I began reflecting on the longness of journeys home and the reality that chaos and uncertainty are exhausting. Commuting is essentially an exercise in perseverance (and often long-suffering!). For those two take a train or bus, it can be s fairly passive waiting for movement from point A to point B. Driving, one gets the added disadvantage of contributing to the ebb and flow of with little to no ability to adjust course or speed up.

All I want to do is get home. I don’t want to wait.

How much of life is like that? And how much of Advent is like that? I often find myself wanting to rush through Week 1 of Advent, to get the “waiting” theme over with. While there is rich theology in the exploration of hope and longing, and it’s pretty much the principal motif of this blog, sometimes I just want to “arrive” at the Nativity narrative. It seems a little more ordered, less open for interpretation, yet at the same time ready for deep contemplation.

Writer Laura Jean Truman reflects on this idea of waiting (in traffic). She says,

“Brake lights all the way down. . . I want to reach into this picture and wipe away everything in front of this sunset like ugly doodles on a whiteboard—clean out cars and utility polls with a wet rag and see the sunset that’s all clogged up behind chaos.

Instead, here we are in Christmas traffic, vibrating with bad news and family drama and fears for ourselves, our neighbors, and our earth.

I used to try to make holy and tidy Advent seasons, to wipe away everything unpleasant or ugly or too-human.

But if God was born in a garage during tax season on a roadtrip—maybe the work of Advent isn’t trying (uselessly) to wipe away everything chaotic. Maybe Advent is crying in the walk-in closet - wondering if Mary cried, too, that she had her first baby so far from home and family and friends. Maybe it’s showing up imperfectly, reminding ourselves that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing poorly, tending gently to our shame - wondering if Joseph felt shame, too, about inadequacies and imperfections as a dad raising this Messiah.

Advent isn’t for the ones who have succeed in wiping chaos away. The good news of Advent is “this too shall pass”. . . We are the weary world that isn’t rejoicing yet. Advent is for us. We are the people walking in darkness who don’t even believe we’ll see light. Advent is for us.

Advent honors the ugly and chaotic, and doesn’t tell us to pretend it’s OK when it’s not. Advent doesn’t say “act hopeful!” Advent doesn’t tell us to stop crying.

Advent whispers:
whether you feel hope or fear,
whether you wait patiently or anxiously,
whether you’re trudging forward or gave up and sat down on the path,  
the good news is that God comes anyway—right in the ugly. Right in the mess.”
I’ve never felt like my practice of Advent writing has shied away from the messiness of life, but this year it’s been really hard to focus. It feels a little bit like being in a traffic jam.

Jesus didn’t have to deal with cars during his time on Earth, but he did do his fair share of traveling (even with caravans as a small child). And He never declared those journeys as lost time. Maybe a part of His divine nature wished He could move through time and space in the blink of an eye, but as a human, he was humbly walking under the Father’s lead. And in God’s economy, nothing is wasted.

If we’ve learning anything from Scripture it’s that God uses any and all thing for His glory and our good. It’s on the journeys that we learn unexpected lessons. Some journeys take longer than others. Some feel more full of chaos. But the good news is that Jesus is there, right alongside us. Immanuel, God with us.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.