If Christmas is the story of a child, Advent is the story of a pregnancy that we accompany right up to the moment of birth. It mirrors what ought to happen with us; namely, that the child of God must be born – must come to life – in us. This cannot just take place generally, in the world of mass humanity. It must also happen right in me.
We need to realize the infinite value we have in God’s eyes, irrespective of how greatly or poorly we esteem ourselves. Even more important, we need to see beyond who we are now. We need to see who we can become once the Child has been born in us. That even when we grow old and decrepit and unsightly, we can still be, in God’s eyes, more than we ever were before.
All this, because of the new birth. Out of the depths it will come, bearing us upward to a place of assurance and freedom whose heights we can hardly dream of now: the freedom of the children of God.
As a man, Jesus once spoke about a seed of wheat. How it falls, as it were, into each heart. How it needs soil to germinate there, in order to bring forth something new. A full head of grain. A new man or woman.
This seed that falls into our hearts is a call from God. In the ground of your soul, it can become a growing shoot: creative energy, liberation; a confidence you yourself cannot muster. That is the promise of Advent. It can happen at any moment; it will simply come forth and transform you into something more than you are now – a true child; the new person God means you to be.
Your model is the child who was born at Christmas, and the man he grew into. (This is why some images of the nativity show Christ lying on a sheaf of wheat.) If this sounds far-fetched, note that it is never important who we are now, but what we are becoming – what we are growing toward. The question is not how much strength we have, but whether the Child’s strength is at work in us. Whether his goodness flows out from us toward others. Whether we have his readiness to suffer as we stand at the side of someone in need.
It is important not to defend ourselves from the world, or against other people. They too belong to God. We need not fear or hate anyone. In his strength we can simply allow ourselves to say what others leave unspoken. We can break every constraint – we can speak up for the speechless and call every wrong by name. And no one can threaten us.
As long as I obey the call of God, and the new being within me grows, I will know truth, even amid a sea of delusions. Despite endless darkness I will still see light. In death’s bottomless deep – even there – life will remain for me. For the Child reaches beyond this world, and into the next, and I am one with him.
The story of the Birth says: You have been placed upon this earth. Go your way through it, paying heed to God’s will. Follow his leading, and pay attention to each sign he gives. He who sent you is there. He will guide you. He will accompany you with the face of your brother. He will keep you from falling. He will point out your path. He will receive you at its end. Even then he will stay beside you. Forever.
Give thought now to the road Jesus trod upon this earth, starting in Bethlehem. It is your path. Follow it, and become one with the will of God as he has shown it to you. And live in peace.
Translated from Jörg Zink, Türen zum Fest. Verlag am Eschbach, 2010. Used with permission.
Stained glass image by Valentin Feuerstein, 1917-1999. Copyright 2010 Verlag am Eschbach. Used with permission.