We put aside, or perhaps assuaged, our grief over the loss of our tabby, Laddie, who climbed into Heaven three months ago, and adopted two kittens from a local shelter. At only 14 weeks, they seem incredibly tiny, and we have been introducing them slowly to the house and of course to us, graduating from small spaces to ever bigger spaces.
Coming into our home in this time of coming, Advent, has seemed appropriate, especially given the California lockdown this month. We have time, time to wait and be gentle and care for the kittens, as we await the coming of Our Lord in Bethlehem this Friday. It is a season of time, a timely season, one of quiet hope, enriched by Scripture. It is a dark season waiting for the light, waiting for the dawn of Christmas Day. It is a time of beloved lessons and carols, words made beautiful put to music, housed in song through centuries of hymnody, words living in the melody that tell the marvelous story of redemption, the story of the Savior of Mankind coming among us as a humble infant. It is a time of candle light at dusk in the middle of winter fog and frost and snow, when the shortened days end and the long night begins. It is a rich time woven into the tapestry of prayer.
We pray for grace to cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which the Son of God, Jesus Christ, visited us in great humility.
And the casting away the works of darkness is particularly true this year, with the fear and the panic over the flu sweeping the world, sweeping some into Eternity and forcing others into closed spaces, hoping the virus will not seep under the doors or through the windows.
The darkness, like the virus, is viral, slithering to our homes, a snake ready to strike, or pacing through our neighborhoods like the coyote howling at night, like a roaring lion eager to devour. For the true pandemic is a virus of the soul, as we have guessed and known for some time.
In looking upon these wee little kitties (not yet named) it is easy to understand the immense love of God, that he could create such delicate creatures with such magnificently minute parts – whiskers, eyes, ears, tales, long hair in proportion to their tiny bodies. Our Creator of the universe breathed life into these beings who eye us with hesitation, desire, and need, and finally acceptance of love offered and returned. We caretakers are so gigantic and clumsy, but we care for them as best we can.
The gigantic and the tiny reflects the miracle and mystery of God. The contrast is all around us and within us. We, such temporal weak creatures, with bodies destined to decay to ash, have been given souls full of God’s spirit, full of God’s love, beating hearts pumping blood, beating hearts longing for God, longing for Heaven, longing for fulfillment, longing for redemption.
I have long considered in my gentle years the happy and fortifying words memorized over my life of three score thirteen so far to be the food of God for my soul. For indeed, Christ was and is the Word of God. He became incarnate just as our thoughts become incarnate in words on screen and paper, in song and liturgy. And when we look upon the manger and the poverty of His birth, we are astounded once again by the gift of life given to us in such a way, in such a place, amidst the terror and tumult of the Roman Empire. There was no room in the inn we are told. We rejected the Savior of the world, the Son of God. We rejected Love incarnate.
The Incarnate Word lying in a stable amidst the the farm animals, the angels singing glory and praise, the star in the heavens showing the way, a powerful portent of eternity, the Holy Family teaching us how to be a whole family, the traditions that further incarnate this immense event in history – all these things are given us. The creche, the evergreen tree strewn with lights, the gifts and cards and greetings given, the songs of peace and joy and delight – all the past Christmases are reborn to live in this coming Christmas. We keep the holy tales alive and they in turn enliven us, feeding us with humanity’s greatest desire throughout the centuries, to become whole, holy, filled with the love and light of God. The past is sacred for it forms our present and our future. To deny our history is to deny life itself, to deny meaning, to deny that what and who we are has eternal consequences.
And so we pray in our own time that in the last days when Christ shall return in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we shall rise to the life immortal.
And such is our coming prayer, our Advent prayer, this fourth Sunday in Advent. We pray that when we are judged we shall be forgiven our repented sins, those things we have done and those things we have not done, for there is no health in us.
For we shall be judged, every one of us.
We should rightly fear this judgment, and so we try to keep current with daily or weekly confession of our failings. We clean out our hearts to make room for Christ in the inn of our souls. We find that with a clean conscience that we sleep better. We love better. We measure ourselves against God’s righteous standard, and continually failing to meet it, we confess and are forgiven. We are clean, washed in the blood of the lamb. A right spirit dwells in us.
And so we wait for His glorious majesty to be revealed in a cave manger outside Bethlehem. We wait for His coming, for the angels singing, the shepherds adoring, the kings on bended knee offering the first Christmas gifts: gold for His kingship, frankincense for His priesthood, and myrrh for His burial. We wait and watch and listen for His coming, His advent at Christmas and the end of time, in humility and in glory, just like His creation.
Come, Lord Jesus, Savior of the World, King of Glory, come. Come in your great humility and your glorious majesty so that we may rise to life immortal.