ADVENT: PITFALLS WE FIND ON THE JOURNEY

The actual significance of things created

“Pitfalls he must find on that journey, blind paths perhaps, but through it all the philosophy of belief in the essential goodness, the actual significance of things created, the state of being, ‘in love with life.”

Frances Chesterton, The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton

Christmas was a very important season to Frances. It was her personal hopes that guided her on her own journey toward Christ through the Advent time. Her hopes as a Christian for the return of Christ and her personal hopes that she might be blessed with a child of her own were very connected. And it was this hope unfulfilled that shaped her own recognition of the “actual significance of things” meant by God in our lives:

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.…

Acts 27:26

As we continue our own Advent journey toward Christ, do we find that God is allowing us to recognize our own pitfalls and blind paths so that we come to understand His essential goodness apart from our own heart’s desires?

This morning one of those pitfalls and blind paths was highlighted by a number of social media posts, (one by Mike Rowe even who seems to think along the same lines as this consideration will) and has to do with our going in the opposite direction from the Christ child, in the wrong way to forgetting how to be child-like.

Learning to exult in monotony again

I have a string of multi-colored Christmas lights, what is left of better years, lining a portion of the deck around my house. Its the only light for miles down my road every Christmas season. But I never tire of the wonder it produces in me. And I hope the same happens for those who pass by on this lonely dark road during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Because that is what healthy traditions mean, they mean recalling the wonder of childhood.

This is the point that Christ makes when He says that we must be like a little child to enter into the Kingdom, to be born again. They aren’t just words. They mean to regain the wonder, trust and obedience of a child again. A child who is at that age where he is never bored with the same things, where you hear him say: ‘Do it again!”. He wants the same stories told again and again. He wants you to play the same games with him. They delight him the same as the first time, each time he plays them.

I was thinking of this again when people were posting this year’s Christmas displays, most of them strange garish colors of lights, too perfect, too coordinated, too sophisticated. They were not lights of truth, wonder and hope shining out in the darkness but more about showy display for competition and attention getting…which is what happens to us when we get older and our society has let itself get old and bored. It made me think of what Jesus was saying and of what Chesterton meant when he wrote the following:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
― G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The old days had our houses lining the streets with the same lights, some with a few more gables and windows and rooves covered than others, but pretty much the same. And delightfully so. Each house with the same smiling lit up face as the others, as in the picture above, whether rich or poor. Let’s get back to that and stop trying to compete with each other. Christmas is not a competition and children of the kingdom don’t want to do that. They just want the lights to shine with hope for the people in the world in the darkness. The simple wish of a person with a child-like heart filled with wonder that light has come into this world by means of Christ!

Being “as a child again” in order to enter the Kingdom is the goal of our Advent journey toward the Christ child in the manger at Christmas. We can then, as both Gilbert and Frances remind, achieve the state of being, ‘in love with life’ the way God means for us to be.

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