My son has a book that we read to him during the Advent season. It’s called Who is Coming to This House? and it’s told from the perspective of animal narrators preparing their house (the stable) for the arrival of Mary, Joseph, and the soon-to-be-born Jesus.
As the story progresses, each of the animal has a page featuring what they are doing to prepare – the goose puts feathers in the manger, the horse gets the door open, and the spider spins new webs. I am not sure how new spider webs are a welcoming and inviting feature for a manger-birth, but I guess the point of the story is that we all have something we can do to prepare our homes (in the broadest sense – our hearts and homes and spheres of activity and influence) for God’s Arrival.
When Advent began, we pulled the book out of our Christmas box and began to read it in our nightly bedtime routine. The Boy loves books, and for the first few days this was no different. He loved the different animals and occasionally would recite the simple rhymes found throughout the book. He was especially fond of the squeaky voice of the mouse who, throughout the story, reassures the other animals that “someone, someone” is coming to the house.
And then he stopped wanting to read the book. He would suggest other books or say he was ready for a story or a song.
After a few days of this, I pressed him. Why don’t you want to read this book?
“It’s too scary for me,” he insisted.
Huh? Too scary?
I got curious and asked him for details but he had none to offer. He insists the book is too scary for him and refuses to read it. If we pull it off his shelf and hand it to him, he’ll grab it and slip it behind his chair, perhaps in the hopes it will disappear until next Christmas.
Advent is a season of wonder and expectation. A season of waiting. But it is also a season of arrival.
Someone is coming to our house and this house of ours is a mess.
Our justice system is broken;
Our biases and prejudices are brutally on display.
Our ocean is full of garbage;
Our world is overheating.
Our hearts are stingy;
Our hands are idle.
This house of ours is a mess. We’re not ready for a guest – not an innocent baby and not a God-in-flesh.
Maybe a dose of fear is appropriate for Advent?
But the beauty of Christmas is God-in-flesh-disguised-as-an-innocent-baby arrives in the midst of the mess and because of the mess.
Someone is coming to our house:
In the midst of and because of a broken justice system;
In the midst of and because of brutal prejudices.
In the midst of and because of our trashed ocean.
In the midst of and because of our warming world.
In the midst of and because of our stingy hearts.
In the midst of and because of idle hands.
As Advent draws to a close and makes way for Christmas…
As our language shifts from ‘Someone is Coming to Our House’ to ‘Emmanuel has Arrived’…
As we realize our inability to clean up our messy house…
…perhaps we learn to heed the words of every angelic messenger ever sent: