Usually an upcoming birth doesn't start to show till the end
of the first trimester. Before that, the life in us is so small that it creates
no bulges. Many women can wear their regular clothes and get their regular
sleep, give or take a few gastrointestinal disturbances.
Then comes the bulge, the ballooning, the sense of no longer
being one's own person, the sense that something important is happening within
us. We find people staring at our bellies. The bulge has locked into place; it
is attaching itself firmly to us.
Advent is the season of the showing, and God is starting to
show. We light one candle to indicate the coming of a new kind of light. We see
the bulge in our hearts, and we know things are different. Sometimes we even
say, "This year will be different," not knowing exactly what we mean besides
the sure knowledge of growth in us.
We want God's spirit to firmly attach to us, and we know it
will have to move slowly--otherwise we will be much too scared. One candle each
week is about the right pace to comprehend the matter.
At the core of our Christian faith is the Holy Spirit having
mysterious relations with a girl. This core mystery results in a child who is
understood to be the salvation of the world. Advent is the time when we get on
the path of understanding what Mary wonders: "How can these things be?" How
come God comes down? How come God gets small? How come God, the eternal,
becomes the temporal?
How can God be so dependent on us for care? What if we do
In our story, power is vulnerability, heavenly is earthly,
flesh involves spirit and divinity caresses the ordinary. Our God is is very
hard to fathom in a world of tacky Christmas ornaments and deep concerns about
Christmas-season retail performance. Our story has a quarrel with the world as
we know it. It sings its song in a different key, the key of incarnation, of
spirit becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
Not above us, but among us. Not outside us, but in us. Not
robed in kingly crimson but in swaddling clothes in the manger next door. Not
quick, but slow, slow enough not to scare us and to fully attach to us inside.