I sit at my desk wrapped in a deep red blanket with white fleece lining. We’ve been talking, these days, about putting off and putting on, about clothing ourselves with Christ. I see easily the places I fall short. I want to fix it – fix me – all at once.
His question stops me short: Do I desire perfection, or do I desire Jesus Christ? He asks it just after he has spoken words that won’t let me go, “Being perfect is not the goal; the goal is living in relationship to Jesus Christ.” (Neil Redenbaugh) He reminds us of Paul, whose goal was fiercely-controlling, nit-picky perfection until Jesus met him. Then Paul understood: even his most polished goodness was trash. His empty, driven passion for perfection was replaced by life-filling passion for a person. (Phil 3)
A friend confesses that she’s not feeling ready for Advent, that there are things she had hoped to finish first. And between her words and his, I glimpse grace. We don’t need to finish everything – buying the gifts or receiving the Gift or becoming gift – before we begin the longing for his coming because “Jesus comes to us before we’re ready and helps us get ready.” (Neil Redenbaugh)
Waiting is not just about what waits at the wait’s end. It’s about how we grow together in the process.
It’s not just about getting there. It’s about being with Him on the journey.
That, I think, is why I love advent. Not only because it means Christmas is coming, but because it means I don’t have to get ready for Christ’s coming all by myself. Every day he comes, every moment, not just three and a half weeks from now, and this few-week wait awakens me again to the invitation that is always the same whether we hear it in the context of character development or of getting ready for Christmas: just let Jesus into the messy, unfinished places, the places where questions lurk and loose ends hang ragged and you can’t see for the fog.
He’s already present in the wait, Emmanuel, the with-us God.