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Advent: a miraculous mess

Join Tearfund in expecting the extraordinary this Advent

At 4.37pm on Sunday, 23 September 2018, my daughter was born, and it was simultaneously the most astonishing, beautiful, disgusting, wonderful, transformative and terrifying moment in my life.

Birth is one of the most natural things in the world. Yet there is an astonishing depth to it, a sanctity – our labour room practically hummed with holiness. What could be more sacred than new life coming into the world?

At Christmas, we celebrate the new life that is the light of all mankind’. Yet our images of the nativity are often sanitised. Where is the blood? The sweat? The tears?

Perhaps our ideas of what holiness is have become sanitised too. We often see the sacred and extraordinary as being elsewhere, out of reach, separate from our everyday lives. 

The weight of heaven

But what the story of incarnation shows is that this isn’t true. Jesus’ birth was the divine colliding with the dirt, the mysterious entering the mundane. You will have experienced moments of incarnation in your own life. It could have been watching a sunrise, staring into the eyes of a lover, cradling a newborn child, or holding the hand of a loved one on their deathbed.

Maybe the ground is always holy. Maybe the sacred and the everyday aren’t so far apart. Maybe ordinary things can be charged with the extraordinary. This is what I experienced when I held my daughter for the first time. Something so simple, so natural – so messy – yet with all the weight of heaven. A miraculous mess.

God is either omnipresent, or He isn’t. Christ is either in us, or He isn’t. In traditional rabbinic teachings on the book of Exodus, the bush that Moses encountered was always burning – it’s just that he happened to notice it for the first time (Exodus 3). 

Shallows and depths

But it’s easy to get distracted and miss the burning bushes in our own lives. The world does its best to make us live in the shallows: the bright lights of shopping and TV and social media. It wants to drag us away from the deep, rich things of life: faith, family, nature, relationships, joy, grief, wonder.

This is why Advent is more important than ever. Advent is an opportunity to look up from our busy lives and notice the holiness all around – to look to the coming of the divine. It’s an opportunity to see that life is indeed extraordinary. And, if nothing else, it’s a chance to remember that the Son of God was once a little baby covered in gunk – just like you and me.

Explore Tearfund’s Expect the Extraordinary advent calendar and find out how you can sign up.

Gideon Heugh is a copywriter for Tearfund. 

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