"He shall be named Emmanuel, which means, 'God with us.'" God with us! The incarnation of Christ, becoming a little baby, is what Christmas is all about. And it is also about making room in our hearts for this babe born in Bethlehem.
Although we are taking a break from studying the parables of Jesus and his kingdom, it seems that this season of Advent can expand our thinking about being kingdom people. Christmas means that Christ has moved into our neighborhood, and more, he has given us a new address: the kingdom of God.
It wasn't that long ago that we sat in the park and began our study. The first lesson I taught was on the tax collector and the Pharisee. We saw that the tax collector had the audacity to be real before God. We looked at the mustard seed dropping down into the dark earth and then becoming more than it should be and yeast that when it is mixed into the whole becomes an explosion of something new. Finally we came to the woman in Thomas' gospel who found her jar empty when she arrived back home.
These parables speak to each one of us differently. For me, Jesus is calling us into a kingdom where we are free to just let go of all we think we are and all we think we should be. Jesus is showing that as we let go there can be something new and better if we can only open ourselves to his emptying process. This process is not easy.
But not to worry, Jesus has shown us the way. We have the supreme template in Jesus. Jesus, who was at the center of creating our universe, our earth, became that which he had created, a human being. Think of it! Jesus began his journey on earth by entering into the womb of a young woman, maybe she was the age of our own Rees or Riley.
This emptying that God is calling us to takes time, it takes letting go of all our biases, all that we think we are, all that we think we should be. Not easy, in fact impossible. Our only task to be open to God's emptying and filling, emptying and filling, again and again.
I am reading a little book, Advent with Evelyn Underhill. She describes us perfectly, "We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even on the religious-plane." That is not Jesus' vision for us. Jesus is calling us into being, not wanting, having and doing.
This emptying process is unique to each one of us. Little by little God opens our hearts until we are finally willing to just let go of all that is keeping us from being, from living in the freedom of his kingdom.
As we travel to Christ's birth and on into his life, death and resurrection we are on our own unique journey as well. Hopefully, like the woman who arrived home with an empty jar we will discover we have been emptied of all that is not needed. We will discover that we have made room for Christ, made room for something far better than we have let go of. We have learned to just be, be the person God has known us to be all along.