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Faithful Living: Advent brings peace, hope
I stopped to watch a life-sized Santa this week while enjoying a leisurely, early Christmas shopping trip. He was busy shaking his backside at me while loudly singing, Jingle Bells. I laughed, then prayed no relative would think it cute and send it our way.
The huge Santa reminded me of the Christmas, some years ago, when my father-in-law sent my loudest child a toy bullhorn. He explained his choice, in an accompanying note, saying it was a payback for the moments he had endured sitting next to this same child known during those infant years for bellowing in frustration from her car seat when the ride went way too long.
I also laughed this week when a long-time friend sent my husband and me an animated greeting card over the Internet that featured a reindeer choir, directed by Rudolf and performing a bawdy rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas! Contrary to popular belief, those of us who consider Christmas as a faith-based holiday are not offended at every turn by secular characters, especially when sacredness or children are skewered by the humor.
Following my shopping expedition I treated myself to an eggnog latte and sang along to a CD featuring the Hallelujah Chorus as I drove home. While my children would have moaned in agony at the quality of my voice had they been there to listen, I know God does not mind my feeble attempts to sound divine. After all, He created me with a mundane voice.
He also placed in my heart the need for moments of sacredness and holiness. It is why I so enjoy Advent, the Season of Coming that heralds the start of Christmastime.
Technically, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas day and ends at midnight Christmas Eve. It was begun by the church hundreds of years ago to give believers the opportunity to prepare their hearts for the holiness of the celebration of Christs birth.
It is a wonderful idea, for it is a difficult matter to conjure up detectable levels of anticipation and celebration when something is done over and over again, year after year. Hence the Santa, getting on his groove. We like to be enticed and entertained in ever new ways.
While such silliness is all in good fun, I cannot let Christmas go by without some planned moments of deep contemplation. Mixed in, somewhere, there must be God.
This year I am giving thought to the people of ancient Israel and what they must have been experiencing in their daily lives. Forever, it seemed, they had been waiting for their Messiah. He had been promised in the scriptures and they desperately needed Him as the political scenery was nearly unbearable for most of the people.
The Roman government occupied their sacred city of Jerusalem, taxed them beyond reason, and kept physical order using legions of Roman guards and soldiers.
While the general citizenry respected the laws of the Roman government, Jewish underground guerrillas, known as Zealots, frequently confronted the soldiers at night. This unrest, under the cloak of darkness, must have troubled Jewish mothers and fathers attempting to create atmospheres of safety and peace in their homes.
Over time, the Messiah was viewed as one who would rise from among the ranks of the Jews and deliver his people from the hands of these oppressors.
It is here that language plays a fascinating and important role in our understanding of these historical encounters. God in the Hebrew Scriptures (todays Old Testament of the Bible) is Yahweh. It means, The Holy One of Israel and is considered so beautiful, holy and sacred that a Jew would never have even uttered Gods name. The term holy in Hebrew is kadosh and it means, That which is far above [man and woman], distant and beyond our understanding. The term of Israel means, right here in town. Putting all this together is a most amazing message: The distant, holy one is here in town, with us, always.
The language and deep imagery of the Christmas story is what I have been contemplating this week. The Messiah, called Emmanuel later in the Bible, and translated God with Us continues to stir the hearts of modern people like me, asking us to look past the seasonable hubbub and respond in tangible ways as we live our daily lives.
God came to town two millenniums ago. He came not only for the Jews but for all people, for all time. He came to demonstrate peace and hope. He came to daily interact with me and you.
Freelance writer Joan Bay Klopes e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.