It’s as if Christendom is on watch during Advent, and certainly not just for the parties and presents. That’s such a small part of it all. It’s the watching that we love, I think. The anticipation. That’s the secret joy of Advent.
We do hate the commercialization of this holy, holy hour. We do hate our own busy-ness when it threatens to turn us into exaggerated versions of ourselves, not always to the better. We hate it when we spend more money than has been set aside, but we do love to be lavish at this time of year. We spend and do and decorate and sing and sparkle and give and visit and feast and laugh and rejoice and gather and restore and renew – and all of it for joy, if we get it right.
In all of the spectacular-ness, the extravagance of the principals stands out to us. We marvel at Mary’s faith and trust and willingness to bear a child out of wedlock, because she knew whose emissary the Angel was. Hear the extravagance of her answer, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.” If we permit ourselves a stretch, might she have been saying, “Look, I’m the Lord’s own woman,” in our vernacular?
Joseph’s extravagance is beyond comprehension. Extravagant trust, obedience, and love. Extravagant graciousness and mercy and humility. His “all in” warms our hearts. In a way, Mary gave herself to glory, but no “Magnificat” comes from Joseph’s lips, at least not in Scripture. He just got up and did as he was bid.
I want the Lord to find this kind of extravagance, Joseph’s and Mary’s kind, in me. As we all watch and wait and pray, we become a people who trust and obey.
We have spoken of the Magi and the shepherds and the riotous angelic visitors; it seems to me that nothing was held back anywhere, except in Herod’s palace … but he wasn’t on point. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night, and the Magi were watching the skies. Zechariah was on watch in the temple, and Joseph was looking to maintain righteousness, above all. Eight days later, in the temple, Anna and Simeon both saw what they had waited long to see, Simeon prophetically and Anna monastically. They saw the promise of God.
I wish to ask … Father, let me see Your extravagance at every turning. Let me see prophetically, and let me make of my heart a monastery where keep myself in worship and prayer all my days. Let me be extravagant in these, in the hope of the Gospel and in my willingness and ability to share it. Let me watch the skies for Your return and watch over the lambs You have given me to love. Merry Christmas, my Lord … indeed, You have dealt bountifully with me.
Song of the Angels, 1881
William-Adolphe Bouguereaux, public domain