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Advent: Are We Human?

I am human. I fear there may be no less un-Christian declaration than this. To say “I am human” trips our spiritual alarm system and, if you’re like me, you have a quick response, “Well, I’m so much more than just human.”

Also, to be human and to declare it sounds like a ready-made cop-out or excuse that I can’t be held responsible for my sins, because I am only human?

The truth is, this Advent I need to declare and even reclaim my humanity because the messages I received set me on a trajectory to believe that I am something other than human.

As my mom’s divorce advisor I breathed in these words, ” Michael, you are so wise. You’re not like the other boys.” I also never got into trouble, so I heard this message, “Michael, how are you so responsible?'” I was the president of my school’s FCA and led multiple friends to the Lord, so I learned in my formative years that I must be superhuman, to some degree.

But those who served me these superhuman messages laced them in kryptonite. When my dad put a gun to his head while I was in the room, I learned I wasn’t so special after all. When my mom threatened to wreck the car with me and my sister in it I discovered the limits of my super powers. When I moved schools at the end of 6th grade and lost my first love, Susanna, I learned that love is often anxious, unkind, it can be wronged and even discarded as immature and too young.

The truth is, as children, human is what we first learn we can’t be, and so we learn which parts of us are unacceptable and which parts of us are.  And like sheep and goats we separate these parts into ego and shadow. Into the ego we cast the parts people love, that help us, protect us, and move us forward. And like mannequins in a store front we become what we hope people will buy.

Into the shadows we cast the parts, both good and bad, that are unacceptable, that we’ve learned don’t help us, no matter how integral they are to our God-given humanity.

I am both light and shadow, and in case there is confusion, the shadow refers to what we “hide, repress or deny.” It is not bad but simply hidden. And Light is not always good either. Sometimes what we think is our light is actually our shadowy way of giving people what we think they want to see.

In this season I am coming to grips with my humanity, and what a time to do so, in Advent when God also is coming to grips with His.

John writes, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

In Advent we find God, born in human likeness, to a migrant family in a shithole of what we affectionately call a manger, probably because it feels too human to call it a feeding trough. In Advent we encounter our human God who knows what it’s like to be told, “Surely you are the Son of God (You’re not like the other boys)” And who knows what it’s like to see friends murdered or have a gun pointed at his own head.

In Advent we encounter a God who knows how we’ve been super-humanized and how we’ve been dehumanized. And it is this God who says, “Me too. By my (human) wounds you are healed.”

Maybe the gift we can receive this Advent is to allow ourselves to be human, or at least to see how we’ve been living as something else. And maybe we will discover a God-man who will show us the one thing we hide, repress or deny more than anything, our humanity.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.