As a child, soon after the orange and brown fall decorations came down, I gleefully began anticipating the Christmas season. The questions catapulted towards our parents, one after another: “Is it time to get a tree yet, is it time?” and “Mom, when are you going to buy us eggnog?” and “Do you have a stamp so I can mail my letter to Santa?”
With baited breath, we looked forward to the glitter and the magic of the holidays; while commercialism reminiscent of the North Pole certainly took its toll, we also held tightly to Christ’s birth. Though elementary in understanding, we got the Real Reason for the Season – we held sacred the carols “Silent Night” and “What Child is This?” and our hearts breathed hallowed holiness when candle after candle lit up the old sanctuary in hushed glow.
In Advent, we celebrate the God who is with us, the god-man who lived and breathed here on this earth, entering into the fullness of life through human body. Were you to ask me what that meant as a child, I would have rightly answered Jesus came to earth as a little baby, “just like me!” But what strikes me today is not necessarily the how of Christ’s birth, but the why of his humanity: He, the Salvation Pioneer, became fully human in order to help us. Jesus didn’t do this for the angels, but he did it for people just like us. He entered into every detail of human life, experiencing the ups and the downs, the good and the ugly, so he might “…be able to help where help was needed,” as Eugene Peterson phrases it in The Message translation.
Now that is a mind-blower! He who is bright with Eden’s dawn light becomes one of us, experiencing the fullness of every detail of what it means to be human, all in an effort to comfort and help us more. Perhaps this is what Mary so astutely understood when her soul exaltedly sang of the God near her and with her, alive and kicking in her very belly. She braved mockery and ridicule, and she clung to God, knowing that he would not leave her in her time of need. Her Hope had become her Help, doing for her then just as he does for us now.
Might we all rest in this Help come near.*
What about you? How do you merge the magic and the holiness of the holiday season? How do you embrace Help Come Near?
*This article originally appeared in the DPC Advent Booklet, 2013.