Christmas draws close in this late hour in the season of Advent. Thoughts of family and friends lie close to the surface. Those in need also attract my attention. The harried hustle of consumer ideals hold little appeal for me. I avoid malls altogether. Rather, I am reminded of the blessing of community as I seek ways to connect with others close by. People generally tend to be more distant in the winter, as if the cold and dark rainy days conspire with hectic lifestyles to cause them to withdraw.
Accustomed as I am to living alone, I still seek ways to live out the presence of Christ in my community: a smile as I enter a local shop to purchase supplies from the business owner; a moment of shared laughter as the gas station attendant tells a joke; a friendly greeting as I say hello to co-workers first thing in the morning. Such simple things. One hopes that a consistent lifestyle of friendliness will have a positive influence on those around me. If the gracious impact of others on me is any indication, then the outlook seems bright, even in the dark winter months.
It would be easy for me to retreat altogether. By default it would be my preference. But discipleship is not about following the path of least resistance. It is about following the way of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross.
In that distant land, shrouded in obscurity, the Christ child lay in his mother’s arms, father attending close by. The star that shone awaked the attention of the magi and guided their journey through hostile territory to the Messiah. The angels that sang awakened the attention of the shepherds out in the fields tending their sheep at night. In an obscure land and in a worn stable, far from home, with tens of thousands of people traveling to comply with the census, God made sure that those whom he chose to discover the baby Jesus in the care of his family, would do so unencumbered by the machinations of Herod’s plots.
It was a season of worship and of loving community. A family in sojourn was attended by an audience brought to them by God. The way of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross, had been set in motion, as foretold by the prophets of old. And as I remember the Advent of Christ Jesus, I do so in awe of what his incarnation means in the life we now live and in the day of his appearing, when he calls his saints home.