Advent is the season leading up to Christmas; the word comes from Latin roots meaning "arrival". It's meant to be a season of anticipation, waiting for the Divine to be birthed in human form.
It's intriguing to me to think about the first advent, the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth. You see, Jesus' people were outsiders. The Israelites were a people constantly beaten down and pushed to the outside. Time and time again they were taken advantage of by the power of empire, enslaved and slaughtered and ostracized. They knew what it was to be without hope, to be trapped in the dark and desperately seeking someone who could bring them hope.
Many people don't realize that Jesus was not the only "Messiah" of his day. Many people of his generation claimed to be God's Messiah, the coming Christ. They would claim they had come to save the Israelites from their pain, either through overthrowing the empire or joining hands with it. Most of them were impressive. They were warriors and prophets, born to families of prestige and wealth. They were shiny, they were the saviors a desperate people prayed for.
Jesus was altogether different from the Messiah the world was waiting for. He was born the bastard child of an unmarried girl, from a poor town and a shameful family engagement. He was a refugee, born in a terrible time and and an unwanted place. Laid down in a dingy feeding trough with a frightened family. As he grew, instead of attacking empire as most Messiahs did, he instead attacked the hypocrisy of his own people. It's as if he was showing us how to be saved from ourselves rather than being saved from our circumstances.
My point is, Jesus was born into darkness and despair at a time when people were waiting for the arrival of light and strength. Instead of saving the Israelites from an oppressive government, he saved them from an oppressive worldview. He showed them that God's love could not be limited to any one group of people, he demanded we destroy the lines between us and God, he claimed that God was in us as God was in him, he tore the illusion of separateness held in temple veils and cultural boundaries.
He was defiant.
He was revolutionary.
He was not at all what was expected.
He was a declaration of divinity within our humanity.
So here's to a sacred Advent and a merry Christmas and a hopeful new year.