This year for Advent, we’re going small.
Taking inspiration from the church’s larger advent theme, First Light, and its visual of a single candle, we over at the Justin plan to reign in the ever-expanding, all-encompassing Christmas madness, and practice a little self-restraint. We’ll still decorate and have a big party this weekend and enjoy the season, but on Sunday mornings, we’re going to try to anticipate the coming of the Prince of Peace with actual Peace.
So instead of big props and full orchestras and Hallmark movies, we’ll be talking about a girl, and a manger, and the simple stories of simple people who welcome in the savior of our world. We’ll do some small acts of hands-on service and enjoy an Advent season that is a little quieter, and a little more honest, than what most teenagers will be getting outside of our building.
The musical piece that inspired this year’s Advent theme is called Small, Dancing Light and draws us not into the grandeur of Christmas, but its persistent and unlikely smallness. When I think about the image of a single, flickering candle, fragile and piercing, I am drawn into wondering again about the scandalous particularity of the savior of the world being born to one peasant family, in one small town, on one normal day. A baby that was unlikely, fragile, small, and who changed the world — not because the angels sang about him, but just because he breathed.
I love Handel’s Messiah as much as the next high school choir kid, but I can’t help but think that if we had actually been there at the birth of Jesus, at night, in a barn, with just two poor and frightened Palestinian teenagers and some livestock, the song we wrote may have been much different. Maybe we wouldn’t have written a song at all, and just sat on its dirt and hay ground, leaned up against the rough walls, and wondered at this baby, who was the Son of God. The events of Christmas are very human, and messy, and small. And yet, in that smallness, there is something divine and holy.
That’s what we’re going to spend Advent looking for. I hope you’ll join us.