I parked the car and ducked out of the pouring rain into a Seattle coffee shop. Now I am sitting here on this rainy day trying to remember the sun, trying to remember the light.
It was only yesterday I took a ride on the Ferris wheel in Elliot Bay in the brilliant sunshine. I could see far and wide across the water the shipyard cranes, the landmark Seattle Space Needle, smooth boats and scavenging gulls crisscrossing the bay; a panorama.
This morning when I ran along the waterfront, the Ferris wheel was pale against the gray skies. On this particular day, it wasn’t the standout landmark it had been the day before. The Space Needle too, had disappeared in the rainy mist.
I knew both were there from the day before. Even last night from far away, I glimpsed the Ferris wheel all alight in electric blue spokes. As I strolled the sidewalks with my family, the wheel's bright light reminded me where the waterfront met the city. But that was last night.
This morning everything is washed out in shades of grey and gloom. Suddenly, the Ferris wheel circle flashed bright against the sky. White lights around the rim and radiating out along the spokes seemed to shout, “I’m still here! I’m still here!"
In it's own way, the Ferris wheel is a picture of Advent to me; the hopeful waiting, the long view, the orienting star, the shining light no matter the condition of the world at any moment. We may question the whereabouts of the Peace and Light of the world when all around us we see conflict and darkness; refugees fleeing war and violence, planes disappearing from the skies, bloody shootings in California and Paris. Clearly, the world is full of unrest and darkness.
And yet, Advent reminds us that darkness may have visited the City of Lights, but she shines again. Darkness may have visited the world in Jesus day, but He came beneath a shining star. In our modern world, dark skies may stretch out as far as we can see and yet, the Light of the world still shines this moment as bright as the day God called it to be.
I need you to remind me that the Ferris wheel is still there in the fog and against the night sky even when I cannot see it.
Even when I get gunmetal gray skies, this clear blue view is true.
Advent is light shining in darkness.
Light reveals what is truly there. Light makes things visible. When God took on skin, we could see Him as never before, close-up and real. It's not that He wasn't real before, but now we share soul and grit and body. We share experiences of the human body such as birth, sweat, blood, walking on dirt, growling stomaches, thirsty throats, love and friendship, salty tears, exhaustion and trying to catch a wink in a stormy world. Jesus even shares our painful, impending, inescapable death.
Jesus also came near to us in a flood of emotions by being part of a family, making dear friends, being betrayed by those same dear friends, loving broken people, navigating enemies and being slandered, outcast and sorely misunderstood, even being beaten and bruised. God came to us in every facet of being human, including waiting alongside us for His own promises. Jesus waits with us now. He is in reality already King and yet waits expectantly to rule.
In every humble, gritty human way, we could see our God clothed in Jesus. And we could be seen. God with His holiness intact has a willing heart to come close to us in so many ways we can understand together. God in Jesus literally has skin in the game. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. And not just a long time ago across the seas, but here and now and forever.
Letting this all sink in helps me realize the risk that Glory took to break into our world in a tiny, needy, wiggly human body.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
goodwill toward men!”
This year we welcomed two new grand babies. Holding their little wiggly bodies has reminded me of all that is honest and real about being a baby. We hold our little bundles in tired encircling arms, bathed, diapered and swaddled for comfort, shushed and rocked until little crying heads grow heavy and restful. Since God did not stay aloft in the heavens, but came down a birth canal, these were likely true for Baby Jesus and all who held him.
I do not picture Baby Jesus a silent, cooperative, unfussy newborn. No, even Glory when clothed in humanity must have had crying, fitful nights, snotty nose days, poopy diapers and drooling teething pain. God did not come to float above surfaces or stand aloof of our lives. He got dirty, He cried, He lost love and He submitted to our days. He remained fully God, but he came all the way into being human. I can't explain exactly how He did it, but when the Word becomes flesh, it is AUTHENTIC, it is REAL, it is LIGHT, it is HOLY and COMPLETE.
That is Advent. Light shining in the Darkness.
Let's remind each other all year long.