Following is an Advent reflection by Samuel Ramey, a 2008 graduate of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.
The Invitation of Advent
I don’t know all of what Mary feared, but I can imagine she had good reason to be afraid—as did Joseph, Zechariah, and the Shepherds. The Angels spoke directly to them, offering each of them the same message about the coming of Jesus: “be not afraid.” They were afraid, with good reason. And so are we.
My guess is that your fears are similar to mine. Fears of being seen or unseen—the reality that I can bear neither the pain of your rejection nor the intimacy of your staying with me. Fears about being enough; fears about my value; fears about whether I will receive love, acceptance, forgiveness, or even something as simple as a hug from someone I have hurt; fears about safety, stability, and self-control. Each of these fears, all so human, are a shining star illuminating the need for something greater.
The Angels’ command to “be not afraid” foreshadows the coming of Peace. We are reminded in I John 4 that perfect love casts out all fear. Advent is the birthplace of perfect love and of God’s peace.
Advent is an opportunity to allow God’s peace to enter into our lives. But just like any other physical container, we have to remove the current contents before we can fill it up with something new. I don’t have to look too far into my life to see that I’ve filled much of my space with some of the fears I mentioned earlier. To allow for peace, I have to have space.
Advent’s invitation is about space. This season, the question is: Will you make room?
There was no space for Jesus’ birth in the hotels, B&Bs, or even the dilapidated truck-stop motels. There was only room in the stable—the barn. Advent invites us to consider the areas of our lives that might be too full for Jesus. The hotels and other establishments were too sensible and upscale for an unwed mother in childbirth. I imagine the innkeepers felt similar to the way I do during a church service when my kids are doing somersaults on the chairs during the doxology. The message is clear: “Go away, you’re not welcome here.”
All the rooms of our life do not need to be occupied. We need to leave space and allow for emptiness. I can’t think of a more difficult challenge than to intentionally let there be places of emptiness in my life. The innkeeper in me says, “Why would I ever want to leave a room empty?” Intentionally leaving room to allow our feelings of emptiness and making space to be seen and known might be the craziest challenge you’ve ever heard. The reasonable thing to do is to fill everything up and not feel empty.
But the Advent season is not about what’s reasonable. It’s about allowing space for peace to enter, reside, take shelter, and begin to grow. This is the language of hope. Hope is not reasonable. Hope is a bit crazy—a bit like giving birth to a child in a barn.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Advent is that even if we are too full and don’t have room, Advent will still happen. The invitation will still be there when we are ready. So keep heart, make room, and let Peace fill your emptiness.
May the Peace of the Lord be with you.
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