December 8

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
--2 Peter 3:8-15 (NRSV)

So much of Scripture is filled with the anticipation of the day of the Lord arriving in sound and fury, loud noises and fire. Our Advent readings are filled with it. And yet, what is Advent about? It’s about waiting for a baby. And when we think of the baby in the standard Nativity scene, it seems peaceful. We see Mary cradling her child, with Joseph standing nearby. We see the shepherds arriving in quiet awe. Reconciling our moments at the crèche with Advent passages like this from 2 Peter can give us a collective headache.

But babies arrive in sound and fury. The delivery of new life is marked by the pain of the mother in labor and the cries of the child as it leaves the womb.

We can see all the signs of the advent of a baby, but in the end, a baby arrives when it’s ready. Not at the choice of the parents, not by the wish of the doctor. The family is in the baby’s hands.

At the same time, one knows a baby is on the way. There are things to be done, nurseries to prepare, diapers to buy. Even the most frugal of families has to change its habits and its home for a baby. The deadline of new life sharpens the urgency of all of these tasks. Because the arrival of the baby will reveal all the shortcomings of the family it is arriving into. Any untended emotional issues, any flaws in how the family functions together, will be laid bare in the days and years to come.
And yet, with all the pressure and work to do, it is a joyful time. New life is being created. A new family is on the way.
Humans tend to read passages about apocalypses with fear. The Lord is coming in judgment. Better clean up your act so you’ll measure up! You don’t want to receive the divine equivalent of coal in your stocking on Christmas morning, do you?
Instead of being afraid, or living in a pinched version of morality, what if we found this time to be one of urgent and joyful expectation of the new life to come? Of the new family in Christ that is being created?

No family is perfect. No one of us will be perfect when the day of the Lord comes. What family is perfectly prepared for its new arrival, for all the ways in which one baby is going to turn lives upside down.

This baby we’re waiting for turned the whole world upside down.

It’s the second week of Advent and there’s still time to clear a little room in the home of our souls as a nursery for the Christ child. There’s still time to imagine the changes that are coming. There’s still time to think about some new habits—of prayer, of giving, of letting go of self as the center of the universe. God is giving us extra time because the ultimate divine goal is salvation of all.

Perfection in righteousness isn’t possible in this lifetime, but every inch of room we convert in our hearts gives us a glimpse of the new life in the family God is making for us.

Lord of hopefulness and joy, we give you thanks for the patience you have for the whole human race, and for this Advent time of preparation for your coming. Deliver us from the tyranny of habits which control us and block us from you, and give us strength to pursue those which draw us nearer to your presence. We ask this in the name of the Christ who came into the world as a baby, to make us a new family in You. Amen.

-- Emily at Hazelnut Reflections


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