Disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am not a candidate for a bachelor's degree in Biblical and Theological Studies. I am not, despite my high hopes, an intellectual prodigy in the realm of living faithfully. But this year, on this blog, and perhaps for years to come on this blog, I would like to offer you a few thoughts for each week of Advent, the time of preparation and waiting before the celebration of Christ's birth.
This Sunday we light the pink candle in the Advent wreath, the candle of joy. We are joyful at the nearness of Christ's birth this Sunday, joyful at the vision of His arrival. This Sunday, joy confuses me. I feel it stirring in me, as the preparation continues and the celebration of Christ's birth draws nearer. Yet I also feel something else stirring in me: homesickness.
But Hilary, you say. How can you be homesick? You left the city only 27 hours ago! You are now safely curled up on your own couch, by the fire, with your black lab curled up beside you and a good cup of tea in your hands. How can homesick be stirring on this Sunday, with all of its joy, all of its anticipation?
If you were to ask me these questions, I would not have a full answer. But somehow joy is married to homesickness. I am joyful at my return but the very word "return" implies that I came from somewhere, and if that place is a place I love... then I can never be joyful at returning if I am not also homesick.
And so begins the unlikely marriage in the Third Sunday of Advent of joy and homesickness. We are often too apt to think of Christ's coming as His arrival, His coming home to us, His coming to the home of our hearts, and we forget that Christ came from the Father, from Home. In fact, Christ came to give us the gift of homesickness for the Home He was preparing for us. We joy in preparing for Christ to come home; He promises that we will someday come home. My DC mama Lisa-Jo writes of this in her beautiful blog post: "This is the gift I give my son for Christmas. To be connected to the Christ-child by a familiar feeling of being in one place but not altogether of it. Of harboring a longing for somewhere else. Of knowing there is more to the story of who we are and where we call home."
So joy, and homesickness together this Sunday. But I would be remiss if I did not also talk about the other thing stirring in me this morning: God's great might. The Collect this week says, "Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us..." We speak often of God's triumphant coming and forget the humility of His birth; but we also talk of God's humble birth without seeing the mightiness of it. God works best in shattering the dichotomies of our minds, in taking a word and impregnating it with paradox and meaning bigger than any we thought it could carry. God marries joy to homesickness and might to humility. God stirs up His power and comes among us as a baby. God enters history, enters life, enters our world to inaugurate the New Kingdom, the true History, the true Life.
This Sunday of Advent, we light the candle for joy. And I urge us to think of joy married to these other things, joy as a word pregnant with God's promises and His paradoxes. I am homesick for 327 8th St; yet I am joyful at being home, and joyful that I can be homesick for Washington, DC because it means home is a bigger word now. God is mighty; He is about to be born as a child. God stirs up His power... and with great might, He comes among us as a baby. Let us rejoice.
Third Sunday of Advent
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and
the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end.
(From the Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican Tradition, 1979 edition)