My whole family was together this past Thanksgiving. It’s the first time we’ve all been together in several years. We’re not a large family, so when even one is missing, we feel the emptiness of their absence. We’re blessed to have four generations represented and we’re looking forward to having everyone here this weekend for our family Christmas.
We’re also into four years since my brother’s death. He died the first week of December and his memorial service was at the end of the second week. Thanksgiving was the last time my parents, sister, and eldest son spent with my brother and his daughters. So this time of year brings up all sorts of stuff that we’d rather not be remembering and thinking and feeling.
Yet, Advent is the perfect time to be remembering and thinking and feeling. With Christmas, we celebrate God breaking into our human history through the birth of a vulnerable little baby whose very start in life was against all sorts of odds.
The great mystery is that with vulnerability and humility that God enters our humanity. If you wanted to get people’s attention, is that how you would have done it?
That’s probably why, when John the Baptizer had all that time to think and remember while he languished in Herod’s prison, he became uncertain about Jesus. He probably questioned his career path and some of the life choices he made. Did he really hear God’s call to eat locusts, live in the wilderness, and prepare the way of the One whom God was sending? After all, Jesus is only his cousin! Maybe we’re all crazy!
God is always there, but I believe it’s when we’re vulnerable that we’re most receptive to God’s presence. When all the distractions and disruptions subside and we’re left alone with our thoughts and memories and feelings – and we are honest with ourselves about our vulnerability – that’s when we become aware that we’re not really alone, but that God is there in the mess with us.
My brother’s death dis-spelled all notions that the Peterson-Fouquet-Hokama family was fully intact and impervious to any vulnerability. It’s one thing to know intellectually that life happens. It’s another to experience vulnerability to the core. It’s knowing in your knower that your life is different and not going to be the same. It’s becoming aware of your new normal. And, hopefully, it’s experiencing God’s presence in it all.