We had a simple cardboard Advent calendar that marked the days until Christmas. Each day had a small flap that opened to reveal a little picture beneath the larger picture. This simple, inexpensive calendar opened a window to a world of wonders just beyond my grasp.
As we counted down the days, we transformed our house into a second space. Lights flickered on the trees and old German elves pranced on our fireplace. Smells of pine and Gingerbread cookies and candy canes mixed with the smells of old boxes of Christmas decorations. Sights and sounds and smells saturated my senses. The world held promises of a sudden appearing. For a few short weeks of the year, our house and our whole community became a window to something, somewhere just beyond our grasp.
As I enter into the quiet rhythms of Advent, I’m thinking about windows that open to something, somewhere just beyond our grasp. I am thinking about a world that opens beyond itself to the Creator, to the love of God that cannot be grasped but only received as gift. I cannot grasp His love by my own thoughts or even by my own actions. I can only respond to His love, His gifts, His grace, His peace. The Lord creates and sustains a world by His free decision. I exist and you exist and the sun exists because he freely calls us each into existence. We are complete gift.
We see and feel and hear and smell and even taste through His gift of love. The whole world is like a giant Advent calendar opening to wonder beyond our grasp. But we are so often blind and dull-witted, and half-awake. John Calvin suggested that our sin had made us oblivious to the glory of God pulsing all around us. G. K. Chesterton agrees, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
Most of the time we stumble in the darkness of our own ambitions, condemnation, frustration, guilt, anger, idolatry and more. Complaint comes faster to our tongues that praise. Our world, the world we live in day to day seems so very ordinary. We long for adventure or glory or beauty somewhere, and we fail to see the glory that overshadows us here in each breath. Chesterton suggests that “grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.” We are weak and blind.
Advent begins in the dark. Our darkness. Our blindness. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). The Father does not abandon us in our dull, complaining ways. He comes. And comes. And comes again. Even as we look toward His second coming, we remember His first coming and we rehearse the wonder of Word become Flesh. The mystery of Incarnation lights up all of Advent with the wonder, the beauty, the glory of God meeting us in His creation.
During this season of watching and waiting, may we cry out like Blind Bartimaeus, “Son of David have mercy on me!”
May Christ Jesus heal and teach us afresh to see the glory that pulse in and through all things. May we behold and rejoice and give thanks.