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  • Making Room This Advent

    It is the irrational season, when Love blooms bright and wild.
    Had Mary been filled with reason, there’d have been no room for the child.

    —Madeline L’Engle

    Pondering my favorite Advent poem this year, I am convicted more deeply by the words, “No room for the child.”  Realizing there is much for me to do to be able to clear out space in my own heart for the coming of the child of Christmas, I am deeply aware of how we have created a world in which there has been literally no room for children at our borders, who we separated from parents and locked into spaces that offered no comfort and no hope.  Have we fallen asleep to the reality that we are all creators of this world in which the very things we sing about, pray about, or talk endlessly about at Christmas can be seen as a great hypocrisy in which our words have little to do with our actions? Can we see that we are building a world in which there is no room for the least, the last, the lost?

    Wachet auf!  Wake up!  We sing these words each Advent while seeming to sleep through the urgency of the fact that accountability is a reality which can come at any time.  Will we refuse to see it, to hear it?   We are accountable for the world we create.  One of the aspects of Advent reminds us of the coming accountability for all of us—that we are all called to be building the reign of God, the “peaceable kingdom” in which we have learned and live out the understanding that we all belong to one another.

    We need to stay awake, for the surprise of Christmas is also the hope of Christmas.  God surprises us, coming to us as one who is completely vulnerable, an infant in need of our care, our love.  We are to be  making room—not hanging out the too familiar sign, “No Room in This Inn.” Instead of trying to control and orchestrate everything in our Advent days, might we be “woke” enough to welcome this strange little one, the “Word made flesh,” unable to speak a word to convince us, just allowing himself to woo us to love him?  Might we allow and even welcome the surprise of the “cracks” in our perfectly controlled Christmas that open us to love, kindness, compassion, and hope springing from the most unlikely people, places, and events to which we open ourselves?

    God’s surprise ushers in a new way of living in which love takes the place of force, connection triumphs over “winning at all costs,” and less activity and some time for silence actually makes our lives richer, deeper, and fuller.

    For us as Christians, spiritual power is always hidden inside of powerlessness, just as God is hidden, yet revealed in a defenseless baby.  If God is ever to be loved and shared, God had to risk both human embodiment and human vulnerability.  This is what enchants and evokes the human heart.  We do not fall in love with concepts or theological ideas, persons fall in love with other persons.  In a weak little child, God is both completely hidden and completely revealed—and fully lovable.

    Therein lies our hope this Advent.  The way of a new life coming to us, a new world revealed to us, a different set of priorities freeing us from the tyranny of a merely demanding Christmas and opening us to the surprise of grace inviting us to unanticipated joy.  May we share the joy of creating the community of Christ within and among us!  And always let our thanks be to God!

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth —Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, First Congregational Church in Winchester (UCC) and Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston (UCC)