We are quickly approaching Advent, the season where we wait for the arrival of Jesus, Emmanuel to come and be with us. Truly, he has come and we know he will come again but each year at this time we wait for him again because we know God comes to us not only in his presence but his absence and not only in his absence but in the presences we’d rather ignore.
God has come and if we say we believe in this Jesus then we must believe that he comes in ways we tend to reject. He is with us but he has come as the desperate middle eastern family looking for rest in our inn. He has come as migrant family across the boarder to escape persecution as Mary and Joseph did when Jesus was just a baby. Carlo Carretto in his book the God who comes writes, “But for those of us who want noise, God is silence…for us who want power, God is meekness…for us who want pleasure God is service and gratitude and love.”
If we believe in the God who comes, the God who is with us then we must believe he is with us mostly in disguise, not to trick us but to meet us as we truly are for what good is it if we love those who love us or receive those we would have received anyway – how easy it is to receive Jesus the newborn or Jesus the king for both offer readily available abundant life but it may be that Jesus comes to us as one who offers nothing at all, and like the old haggard who comes to the prince’s castle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, we ignore her, continue dancing and drinking only to slowly morph into a beast who cares only for those who can serve our ego.
Jesus welcomes us but he also stands waiting as the one we’d rather not imagine him to be. To the educated progressives among us Jesus comes as the blue collar carpenter who longs for Israel to be great again. To the blue collar hard worker Jesus is a Palestinian boy from the wrong side of the boarder. He is the elderly woman we who are able bodied and ambitious can ignore and he is the youth who we’ve convinced ourselves is selfish, entitled and fragile and labeled scoffingly as “huh Melinnials”
You’ve heard the saying, “I hate the me I see in you” and this is precisely who Jesus comes to us as – the parts of ourselves we despise and project onto other people who we long to see fail and hope one day, if the stars align, to see them crucified. Finally we will be justified because though God comes to us as the least, as the one we can easily reject he didn’t mean this time or with this person or in this situation.
Jesus stands at the door knocking and if we let him in he will eat with us and be with us but the door he is knocking on is not a front door, it may be a back door or a southern boarder. Emmanuel, God with us, and if we want to follow this Emmanuel then we must see him as the God who comforts as well as disturbs, the God who lifts up and the God who tears down, the God who prays quietly to the Father but who flips the tables of injustice.
Emmanuel, the God who is with us in all the ways we wish he’d just leave us the hell alone.
In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit amen.