The season known as “Advent” is a time of “spiritual pregnancy,” as we wait for the arrival of our long-anticipated savior. At the same time, we are Christmas people, and the baby of the manger is already alive and amongst us by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. So the season of Advent is a time of waiting, a time of remembering, and a time of celebrating.
We live in a culture of deep divisions. Social ideologies compete with each other for a place at the table, partisan politics (which so many people seem to dislike) still makes top headline (which so many people seem to watch). When the apostle (which means “one who is sent”) Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he was unable to visit them in person because he was stuck in prison. But his concern over some divisive issues went ahead of him in the form of his letter, the inspired wisdom of which we still benefit from today.
In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul begins with an indirect question: “Has your faith in Jesus made any difference?” Because if it has, that difference should be noticeable in people’s lives. In particular, in the way Jesus’ people treat each other. Advent and Christmas introduce an entirely new way of living that imitates the character of the one born in the manger, the one called the Prince of Peace.
But even many of Jesus’ followers today are trading in the peacemaking narrative of Christmas for an unfulfillable promise of material comfort that places us on the busy hamster wheel — all our efforts amounting to so little by the time January rolls around. What did you get for Christmas last year, after all?
So let’s be counter-cultural and consider a couple of things on this first week of Advent.
1) We do not always have to agree because there is a love we can agree on.
– Speaking of hamster wheels, if we think agreement on “issues” is the path to peace, we’ll be spinning that wheel until our last days. That kind of agreement has never been a prerequisite for peace. But the new way of living that Christmas calls us to is an agreement that the one love of God in which we share transcends and unites us all, in all.
2) We do not have to win in order to win.
– Putting others’ interests before our own is truly counter-intuitive. But consider the freedom within it. And consider the harm we do in the name of “winning.” The incarnation of God in the humble feed-trough is a revolutionary reminder that winning based on God’s criteria looks very different than winning based on the world’s.
1) Think of someone with whom you have a fundamental disagreement. What would have to happen for you and that person to find agreement in God’s love, so that you’re not divided by your disagreement? Make a move to make it happen this week.
2) What would it take for you to “come in second place”? In your next argument? In the parking lot at the mall? In the dangerous game of “who gave the best gift?”
3) What kind of reward might you get from being “second place”?
Many blessings this Advent season,