Advent Afternoons: Infantilizing Incarnation
My favorite metaphor for Advent is “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” Not as in John the Baptist or the prophet Isaiah, but as in Mary the Pregnant Virgin. She had a lot of preparing to do. She had to be ready to give birth, alone, far from home, and in less than pleasant circumstances. But she and Joseph also had to be prepared to raise a child whose very presence was going to cause a lifetime of raised eyebrows. We can understand how it might have been very tempting for them to remain in the manger, uncomfortable as it no doubt was. At least it was anonymous.
We are similarly tempted to idealize, and therefore, infantilize Incarnation. We want to build a manger and move in.
True, In God’s economy, the birth of this child, was enough. It was sufficient to heal and save us. In fact, the birth of every child has the potential to mend a broken world to the extent that it reminds us of our shared humanity. Babies inspire us to imagine what might come to be. But babies seldom save us, especially from ourselves.
Bacause babies, even the Son of God, outgrow the manger. The walk, talk, and make messes. They question authority, and confront injustice. And sometimes, like Jesus, they grow up to be such a nuisance that they get themselves killed. The baby in the crèche grew up to be a man who embodied the Reign of God even when it cost him his life.
In Advent, we prepare the way of the Lord. We recreate the circumstances which will make us ready to offer shelter and comfort to the tired and frightened family Holy Family. We seek to invite new life into our own tired and frightened souls. We yearn to provide a time and a place for God’s light to enter our hearts and lives.
And so we prepare the manger. But we must do so in the context of the whole story, for the crèche does not stand alone. It is the point from which we embark on the journey. Incarnation envelopes all of life and all of time. Emmanuel, God with us, is present in the baby, the youth, and the man. He will not remain an infant. We cannot hold him back. We can either walk with him, or walk away.
Peace and Blessings,