There are many assumptions about the Nativity Story.
- It’s assumed that Mary rode on a donkey, but it doesn’t say that she did.
- It’s assumed there was an innkeeper, but it doesn’t mention them anywhere.
- It’s assumed there were three magi, but it doesn’t give a number of who showed up.
- It’s assumed there was a star overhead when Jesus was born, but it doesn’t say that either.
- It’s assumed that Jesus was born in a stable, but all it says is He was laid in a manger and that could’ve been any number of places.
Christmas comes with many assumptions. Some helpful and some not so much.
Spirituality also comes with many assumptions and the ones that fail us are the ones we make about what it’s supposed to look like, who is worthy for it to happen too, and what kind of outcome it’s supposed to have on us. Assumptions like…
- It’s assumed that you should be more than you are now to be pleasing to God.
- It’s assumed that your weaknesses are in the way of God’s plan for your life.
- It’s assumed that your lack of religious fervor is a disqualifier for Divine participation.
- It’s assumed that you’re probably not doing it right.
- It’s assumed that other spiritual people have something you don’t have.
Our assumptions hinder our spiritual journey in all kinds of ways, and the antidote to assumption is Surprise. The surprise of Christ’s Incarnation is that it happened in Mary’s day as it is happening everyday in your lack of resources, your overcrowded lodging, your un-lit night sky, your humble surroundings.
- It’s a surprise that Life can come through barren places. -It’s a surprise that meek nobodies partake in Divine plans.
- It’s a surprise that Messangers are sent all along the hidden journey of life to let you know you are not alone.
- It’s a surprise that you will be given everything you need to accomplish what you have been asked to do.
- It’s a surprise that nothing can separate you from the Love of God. Nothing can separate you from Love.
Your assumptions believe you can… But surprise! Nothing can.
This is one of the meditations from my upcoming book Honest Advent: Awakening to the Wonder of God-With-Us Then, Here, and Now. I wanted to start with this because I believe we will collectively enter into this upcoming Christmas season with many assumptions as well. Assumptions like:
- Politics will always keep us divided.
- The Incarnation Story is a wonderful sentiment but has little to do with our chaotic world now.
- Church may never come back.
- Hope for a life I want to live seems unattainable.
- Christmas is pageantry more than participation.
Four years ago we found ourselves in a similar situation. Syrian Civil War, multiple mass shootings, an exhaustive and divisive election. And then the juggernaut of Christmas decor dusted all of western society in November and I found myself feeling like the way we celebrated the Incarnation of Christ made no sense in the complicated and chaotic world I found myself. Not only the shallow Santa narrative, but the sanitized and safe imagery that I found in my own Christian tradition. I have witnessed three pregnancies and births close up and they are nothing close to safe and sanitized. They are risky, painful, vulnerable, transformational, with a lot of bodily fluids.
Bearing witness to this process of bringing forth new life, I began to see that God incarnated through the avenue of human vulnerability… and if I was to find Jesus is my midst currently, it was probably along the same lines. I spent the last four years illustrating and writing about the vulnerability of Incarnation, and they have been compiled into 25 word and image meditations in Honest Advent.
HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE
I’m biased of course but I think this book is particularly poignant for the moment we find ourselves in. We too will be living through an exhaustive and divisive election. We are affected by a global pandemic whether we get it or not. There is a communal outcry for consistent injustice and oppressive systems that can no longer be hidden. We are all being forced to live into our human vulnerability… and thankfully this is exactly where we find God-With-Us.
I have created a book that offers 25 image and word meditations on God in the midst of human vulnerability, and how we can awaken to the wonder of that participation. This Advent season, I suggest that you recommend this book to your congregation as a way to rekindle that wonder. I have made a series of resources for your community such as question guides, sermon guides, and an art show that you can use for your building and your screen needs. All of this can be found at honestadvent.com.
SCOTT ERICKSON is a touring painter, performance artist, and creative curate who mixes autobiography, aesthetics, and comedic narrative to create experiences that speak to our deepest stories.
He’s currently touring is one man show, “SAY YES: A Liturgy of Not Giving Up On Yourself”. Juxtaposing story-teaching, participation, humor, and image curation as Scott walks us through the very personal and universal conversation about the death of a dream and the overwhelming voice of Giving Up in our lives.
He is the co-author of Prayer: Forty Days of Practice and May It Be So, a Spiritual Director to brave women and men, and a professional dishwasher for his food blogging wife. Scott lives in Austin, TX with his wife and three children. www.scottericksonart.com