who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man
It’s been a few months since we made the big move to Chicago. We’ve been back to visit a couple of times in those months and I am glad to say I was able to connect with friends while there. It’s only been a few months. I was surprised at the feeling I got driving into the city, seeing our house down there, hugging friends I hadn’t seen this Fall. It seems too early to have to point to landmarks and say, “remember when we lived here and we did that?” but I guess it isn’t too early. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we’re missing a person or a place until we’re back there, visiting, remembering, hugging. I wondered as I did this with the kids on our most recent trip whether I was trying to cement something important into my soul, to not forget and to remember well. I think we humans are prone to forget important things. It seems the further away we move from something or someone, the easier it is for us to forget.
I have this in my head today as I consider “Advent,” this idea that we are long distance lovers of the story of Christ’s coming to Earth. The word “Advent” itself comes from the Latin, with no mysterious meaning at all in my estimation. Unlike a number of words in our inherited vernacular, Advent states it’s purpose clearly, “Coming.” It is an active word, looking forward, expectant.
It is speculated that the season of Advent was begun sometime in the 4th century. Records of the early church show sermons and references to this season of preparation, this time of repentance, hope, joy and peace. In the Eastern and Western churches Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ, to get our heads around the idea that the Messiah did arrive, to remember the circumstances which led to this rather astonishing event, God becoming Man and dwelling among us. It’s kind of a big deal for those of us who follow the narrative of the Christian faith.
This is the crux of it here for those of us who believe this happened and this is also the difficulty. In a season which has come to mean a time of consumerism run rampant, we forget. We’re so far from the physical event of Christ it’s not hard to forget, even with all the landmarks we try to put into place to remind us what we’re doing here, we still forget. I know I forget because I get caught up in buying the right gifts, buying enough gifts, not letting the tree die in the first three days of putting it up, worrying about family dynamics, planning holiday menus, finding things that have been put away for a year in the midst of a big move and don’t even get me started on Christmas cards and letters- my personal pet peeve but that’s a story for another day of Advent.
I’d love to say that the decking of the halls is stacked against me when it comes to recognizing the landmarks of Advent but that’s too easy an excuse. The landmarks are what they are. The tree has its symbolism, the lights and the gift giving have no intention apart from mine. I make meaning from the landmarks just as the landmarks in a place I’m far from have meaning because I subscribe to them, because I remember them. The places and the people in Nashville share a history with me, visiting them again when we’ve been apart for a length of time has meaning when we bring it to the table. No matter how the geography changes (and it does change) what I’m realizing today, as I begin this season of Advent, is that the history that landmark represents remains intact if I am able to see it, to embrace it and to say “remember when this happened?” My hope this season is to put myself back into the story at Advent, not to simply celebrate that this whole “became Man and dwelt among us” thing happened but to realize what I’ve been too busy to remember all year, to recognize what I’ve been missing over this long distance.