Advent offers us a different way to see the world and each other. Advent isn’t so much about preparing for Christmas, as it is preparing for Jesus. That might sound nuanced, but it’s not really.
Yes, Christmas is technically about the birth of Jesus, but in our culture, Jesus is overshadowed by so much. Our culture relegates Jesus to being a helpless baby – someone who doesn’t mess with anything going on in the world. Except that’s about as far removed from what Jesus coming in the world actually means.
Advent is about preparing for Jesus. Letting go of baggage that holds us back from encountering Jesus. Making room in our lives and in our communities for Jesus – regardless of how he shows up. Making room by removing assumptions that are unhelpful and unChristlike. Making room by letting go of scapegoating and othering.
Too many people need an other, an enemy, to help them define who they are. Ask people to tell you about themselves. Often they will resort to telling you about stuff outside of themselves. Their work, their beliefs, their position, their location.
Talking about who you really are is not easy. Especially when we can’t use other things to define who we are.
An enemy doesn’t really define us. It tells us who we are not, not who we are. In one sense though, talking about an enemy does telegraph a bit about who we are – the less pleasant things about who we are anyway. Usually we project on an enemy the things we don’t like about ourselves.
But Jesus is different. He offers no enemy. He gives us identity that doesn’t require an other. Because for Jesus, there is no us and them. There is only us. That’s what bearing the image of God is about. We see the image of God in all people – there are no others, because what other image would a person bear?
During this Advent, I invite you to do some self-reflection. Struggle with these questions – who am I? How do I bear the image of God? What responsibility does that impose on me? What joy does that bring? How is this Good News?