Advent: The Interesting People Game
I carefully type this draft on my iPad, 20,000 feet over a million Mormons. At some point in the next hour we'll hear a chime and a word from our captain, marking our decent into Eugene and two weeks with the family. Courtney and I have a game we play the one or two times a year we fly. It's simple really; we look for interesting people, the sort who might be on People of Wal-Mart. This go around we added a two point bonus for people wearing ridiculous (parka like fluff) ugg boots. I won, 9-5. Yay me.
In a related left turn, one of my favorite paintings is by a Dutch artist named Pieter Bruegel. Ponder it for a bit.
What you may or may not have noticed was the pregnant woman on the donkey in the middle of the painting. This is Bethlehem (albeit a Dutch version). To contemporize a bit, imagine seeing this painting in July and replace the carts with seven year old Toyota Corolla's and half rusted out Buicks and you'll be getting closer to what Bruegel was going for.
When I think of Jesus' birth, I tend to see an exotic (if not horrendously inaccurate) scene of a woman in an immaculate baby blue bed sheet, calmly riding the donky I just brushed, accross the gym into a 2D brick Bethlehem. But to those in that backwoods village that night (before years were measured in terms of B.C. and A.D.), it was overwhelmingly normal (other than the census of course). God made His grand entrance in the backwoods, in unorthodox housing, in the small corner of a small region of a world empire. This folks, was obscurity.
Thirty years later Jesus emerged from what amounts to a one stop town in Appalachia called Nazareth, telling people that God wanted them to give up their notions of what it meant to be human and come home. Phillip's assessment, "what good thing could come out of Nazareth" was a safe guess about a podunk holler. After 30 years in the hills, redneck God emerged. If Courtney and I had seen Him beneath the spires of the Denver airport, He might have been worthy of bonus points.
I don't want to diminish Jesus as if He is simply an interesting figure of History, nothing more than an oddity. But niether do I want to diminish His humanity, because it was His humanity, his normalcy, his backwoods, low end upbringing that makes the term Immanuel mean something, His homeliness that made people feel at home with Him. He became one of us and lived as we did. He felt cold lonely nights, everyday joys, and the weight of the demons that dog us to be who we don't want to be. Which helps me trust Him when He says, follow me. I know how you feel and I know what I'm doing.
His advent was not a presidential visit to a disaster site. It was a upside down plan of silent infiltration and self-sacrifice. He became something not so powerful, buying a derelict house on the Jersey shore, with nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him, banking on the fact that who He is is compelling enough that He doesn't need our notions of flash, pizazz, and power to draw people, people like me, to Him.