God has always been coming. He came in the creation of light, and he came yet more in Adam. He came in Abraham but was to come more fully in Moses. He came in Elijah, but was to come even more fully in Jesus. The God who comes takes part in the procession of time. With history He localizes Himself in the geography of the cosmos, in the consciousness of man, and in the Person of Christ. He has come and has yet to come.
— Carlo Carretto
This beautiful image of Mary moved me deeply when I encountered it in Israel last summer. It came to mind this week as I struggled to find unity between the apocalyptic image of “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” from last Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21:25-36) and images of baby Jesus, lying in a manger. It is this latter image that is more familiar, that permeates our secular culture almost as much as it does our churches. I know that during this Advent season, and Christmas as well, I will walk into many homes (including my own) that incorporate a crèche or Nativity scene as part of holiday decorating. I do not expect to encounter a display of the Son of Man Coming on a cloud, with scenes of earthquakes, roaring seas and distressed nations as a backdrop.
That is as it should be. Or at least that is what I am accustomed to and what I plan to stick with. But, still, I keep thinking about the Cosmic Christ that we met last week in Luke, the One who comes with such great power and glory that nothing is the same. All we might depend on for security or comfort or escape is upended. God is ushering in a new creation and we are invited to wake up and be a part of it. As people of God our Advent time of waiting is not a passive waiting.
Sometimes when God comes, we are taken by surprise. Time and again, when the Holy Spirit presents me with the unexpected, I find myself exclaiming: Christ is alive?! Oh, my — Christ IS alive!
Of late, I am finding Jesus on the street, in the people of the street. In the midst of great suffering, he comes in the faces and voices of the least of these who long to bless and love others as much as to be blessed. I find him also in the “people in the pews” and over coffee, when friends see Christ anew and, in response, seek to connect with all of creation, even with those who are different, who are on the fringes.
The image of baby Jesus is one I love. It speaks to me of great hope and assurance. It reminds me to wait for something new, something redeeming, something marked by deep hope and promise.
If we look beyond the sometimes schmaltzy images of baby Jesus, we will find something cataclysmic and staggering in its power. We will find Love that is so vast it can generate a universe in a word. It places stars in the sky, and it gives each one of us breath. It is far greater than anything we could ask or imagine.
He has come and is yet to come.