Advent Devotion: ‘Imperfect Perfection’

Post a Comment » Written on December 18th, 2003     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (December 18, 2003)  – Covenant Communications has posted several Advent devotionals taken from church newsletters and emails. This one is  from pastor Kyle Small at Excelsior Covenant Church in Excelsior,  Minnesota.

When I think of Advent, I immediately think back to days at Augustana  College as my friend would sing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” She  would walk from the back of the chapel to the front chanting in her  unbelievable soprano voice this simple, perfect introit. The nave filled  with her melodious outburst of Messianic glory. The phrase continued over and over in perfect fashion. All I could do was sit and breathe in  as my friend sang to God with all she had. It was perfect.

Advent always seems to be the “perfect” season. The cold gathers a  family around the hearth. Christmas lights offer a fresh accent to  neighborhoods. The amount of chocolate and goodies is perfect for  everyone. The hustle and bustle of shopping is energizing and friendly  (not really, but at least a goal). We work hard to make Advent and Christmas perfect. Even the way we tell the Christmas story makes it  perfect.

The story takes place in a quaint little town called Bethlehem. Young  Mary and Joseph have a romantic ride on a donkey and eventually a  newborn babe arrives on a snow-packed Christmas morning dressed in  freshly pressed swaddling clothes. Just after mom and dad cry in joy at  this beautiful baby, visitors arrive. Visits from fresh-scented shepherds, radiant angels and, eventually, adorned wise men all gather  around fluffy, cuddly animals like camels, sheep, goats and cattle. What  a perfect morning to celebrate the newborn baby. Picture perfect.

But if we take some time to re-imagine the story, it might look a little  bit different. An unwed mother conceiving a child has to be taken to  Bethlehem by a fiancé who sacrifices his reputation to save Mary’s  character, all because a king is in need of some cash. If this isn’t  enough, once they arrive at their destination, their holiday suite is a  barnyard. And, just at the right moment, Mary turns over to the horse  trough to deliver their first-born son.

Soon after the mess of birth is cleaned up from the barn floor, visitors  arrive. Shepherds, minding their own business, were “watching their  flocks by night” when out of thin air a bright light appears and freaks  out the simple lamb lovers. An angel appears from behind the light and  tells them some crazy story about “good tidings of great joy.” (Writer’s note: By the way, shepherds usually refrain from using big words like  “tidings.”)

The angel then directs the shepherds from their duties up the hill to a  baby wrapped in “swaddling” clothes. (Writer’s note: oh, eloquent  angels, define “swaddling.”) The shepherds agree to go to Bethlehem and  they tear away in haste, carelessly leaving their animals behind in  order to see this spectacle. Juvenile boys running to see a baby . . . does this sound like your high schoolers?

A re-imagined picture of Advent loses its currently perfect glamour.  “Unwed Couple Visited By Low-Class Shepherds” doesn’t have the same  image as the often-depicted nativity scene. Yet its perfection does not  change. If this story happens tomorrow, just as it did over 2,000 years  ago, “perfect” would not be how we would describe the event. Yet in its  imperfection, it is wholly perfect. The miracle happens in the reality  of life, and life is messy.

This Advent, prepare for the coming of the Lord while reflecting on the  messy things in life. This Advent, imperfection will happen. The turkey  will be dry, the cleaning will be never-ending. Christmas cards will go  unfinished and finances will seem out of control. The season will not be  picture perfect as we envision it. Yet the good news is that Jesus did  not arrive in a picture perfect manner either. The Advent colors of blue  and purple – symbolizing Jesus’ kingship – are soiled in the  less-than-royal stable. Prepare for the coming of the Lord anyway, not  through the hurry of perfection, but through the ordinariness of  imperfection. Re-imagine your life circumstance and celebrate the good news contained within. Prepare in the mess!

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