(The post below was written by me for the Advent series led by Christine Sine, ‘What are we waiting for?’)
After the first temple is built by Solomon and on the day of it’s dedication by him, Solomon declares, ‘Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.’ (1 Kings 8:27). The absurdity that God could fit into the universe let alone a temple is immediately revealed.
Yet the Advent hope of Christmas is that God has located himself in relationship and proximity to us, such that (John 1:14) ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood’.
If you are anything like me, I find that my life doesn’t fit into my own life, let alone the creator of the universe moving in. Too often He is crowded out and left to fit in when I remember Him, need something from him, am in trouble or worried about others. But most of the time, it seems He is squeezed out of my life and neighbourhood.
I’ve also noticed something about the Advent stories, that the people in them have lives that are at least as ‘over-full’ as mine. So how does Jesus move into their neighbourhood and how might he move into my overpacked life?
Too often we think of inviting Jesus into our lives, the Christian cliche of thinking that we open our lives and let Jesus in, ask him in, when we can remember to. The problem, like the people in the Advent story is that he just doesn’t fit. Something else seems to take place in Advent, as Jesus moves into the neighbourhood and invites people into his life, rather dramatically.
Mary and Joseph have their lives not just turned upside down by the arrival of a baby, but have their lives relocated around the agenda of the mission and identity of that baby. Shepherds struggling to make living on the edge of society with no resources, are thrust into the role of evangelism, telling others about the arrival of Jesus in their neighbourhood. And the Wise Men, powerful rules and leaders, rather than have Jesus visit them, leave their positions of authority and travel to a stable in a foreign country, to fit their lives around Jesus.
It seems that when Jesus moves into the neighbourhood, people have to fit into him. And maybe that’s the solution to problem today. I don’t invite Jesus into my life, he arrives to invite me into his life.
His life, as the new temple, is big enough for God, and for us. How is it big enough beyond metaphysical considerations of time and space?
I remember when our first child was born, wondering how our lives would have room, and then she arrives and I was so overwhelmed with love, that at times it seemed infinite. Love made all the space in the world for our child. Then I wondered how I might have any more space and love for another, but I needn’t have worried. With the arrival of each of our children I saw the miracle of love multiplied seemingly infinitely.
And the birth of Jesus, reveals the infinite love of our heavenly Father, who has all the space in his love for us, that the love the Father has for his Son, is the love he has for me as his son.
So this Advent, I am going to stop waiting for Jesus to fit into my life, and ask and move to fit mine into his. (John 14:23) ‘If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighbourhood!’
As I look at my emotional bandwidth, work commitments, family challenges, insecurities and worries, I see I need that more than ever this Advent.