Therefore, you also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. -Matthew 24:44-
We are hosting Thanksgiving at our home this year, and because I’m a good consumer who believes that a well-decorated home is the key to any successful holiday or family gathering, I went shopping to see if there were any autumn decorations that I absolutely couldn’t live without. Except – there were no autumn decorations in any of the three stores I visited. None. The only thing I could find was glittery, silvery, green and red Christmas decor.
And, this was a week ago!
Apparently, I missed the consumer report that informed us Christmas is here.
This is the culture we are dealing with as people of faith who celebrate Advent – the anticipation of Christ coming among us, the not-yet-Christmas tension of wanting that reconciled and whole world while living in the realities of sin and brokenness. Perhaps, as one pastor I was talking with recently said, this rush to Christmas has everything to do with an intense desire to move beyond the deep nation wounds recently uncovered and exposed to the infection they can cause in humanity. Perhaps it is a way to pretend that these wounds don’t exist, at least for a few weeks, as we neatly wrap up and cover over the brokenness, our attentions distracted by trees, tinsel and toys.
As I stood stunned in the aisle of JoAnn Fabric, silently fuming that I wouldn’t be able to add anything store-bought to my collection of autumn decor, I realized that the unexpected hour was upon me. In the maze of wrapping paper and wreaths came a cry so clear it was as if someone were speaking:
I want meaning in the messiness of life.
This meaning is searched for and sought after through the overconsumption of material goods, food, alcohol, parties and gatherings. It is meaning which is ultimately meaningless until it is found in Christ, the Savior who come snot in the perfection of Christmas but in the tension of the world we have and who we are and the world we want and who we yearn to be.
In this coming season of Advent, when it seems that the rest of the world has moved on and care less about seemingly irrelevant church season, we are invited to be surprised by the unexpected nature of Christ coming among us. We are invited to boldly proclaim the already/not yet tension in which we live. We are invited to celebrate the coming of Christ in a Christmas culture.
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Pastor Erika Uthe serves the Southeastern Iowa Synod on behalf of the whole ELCA as the Director for Evangelical Mission. She enjoys getting to meet with congregations to help develop mission and vision strategies for renewal, working with stewardship, racial justice and multi-cultural ministries, and dreaming what God has in store next for the synod. Pastor Erika served most recently at St. John Lutheran in Ely, Iowa where she currently resides with her husband Russ, and daughters Francesca and Charlotte.