Rev. Adam S. Borneman is a dear friend to Homewood CPC and currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife Jessica and daughters Maggie and Hanna. He will be contributing to the HCPC blog regularly beginning with this post.
If there’s one time of year that reminds us that God is the primary agent, subject, actor, or any other term that highlights God’s initiative over ours, its Advent. We didn’t “figure out” God from our lived experience. Our lived experiences only reveal to us our limited capacity for knowing God and the necessity for God to move toward us if we are to know him at all. “Ex nobis, pro nobis, in Christo,” (Outside of us, for us, in Christ) Martin Luther once put it.
And so, the eternal triune God, who is above, beyond, and outside of us, graciously creates us and perennially moves toward us in love. With this in mind, we begin to see more clearly that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth isn’t the only “advent.” It is a – or perhaps the – climactic moment in the life of Triune God who is always advent-ing toward each of us and toward the whole world in ways that are mysterious, beautiful, and often difficult to grasp. The season of Advent is simply an opportunity for us to focus on how God reveals to us that he is, in a sense, always coming to us.
God has always been showing up on his own initiative in “fleshy” ways: at creation taming the waters, walking in the garden of Eden, as three men at Abraham’s door, as Jacob’s wrestling partner, an angel on several occasions, and as a “Word” that “comes” to various patriarchs, kings, and prophets. And may we not overlook Israel’s designation as “the Son of God,” called to embody and give witness to God’s grace, justice, and steadfast love before the nations. These are all very “fleshy” movements of God toward the world in love. Whether these instances mark appearances of the second person of the Trinity in some form is a conversation for another day, but we would do well to keep them in mind was we reflect on God coming to us.
It’s easy during Advent for us to slide into the temptation of thinking “I need to get closer to God this Advent.” My advice would be to stop trying so hard. Sure, pick up that advent devotional, light a wreath, sing hymns. Yes and Amen. I’m doing the same. But these are only ways of acknowledging that God has always been moving toward us and that, in Jesus of Nazareth, God has come become supremely, shockingly, and intimately close. Mary initially thought it impossible, and I think we still do. God’s movements toward us often happen in ways we don’t anticipate or expect, but always in ways that are ultimately for our good and the good of the whole world. What’s more it’s all God’s initiative, not ours. And that will always be the case. So take a deep breath, know that the Son of God is drawing close, and rest in the grace of God’s advent.