I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo. I wrote a bunch of words, developed most of the plot. I got slammed by the required momentum. You have to write freakin’ fast to get that many words down everyday. I can write 1700 every couple days. Every day for a month? Not this time.
I made a mistake early on. When Sandy hit I was off work for two days. I didn’t write a single word. I read some comics. I read a book. I watched a couple movies. I was on edge the whole time, but tried to convince myself that I would have time to write the book later.
Free time kills productivity.
Around this time, I had more existential angst than I have ever had ever before.
And that’s saying something.
I don’t know if I can blame Pete Townshend for this. I was reading his autobiography that week. He guided me through my teenage existential angst. Actually, he dropped me off right on Jesus’ door (more on that some other time). I wonder if reading his book forced me to retread some of those painful steps of a decade past.
Regardless of who is to blame, it was a very painful time for me. It was a dark week.
The next week my family got a double headline of bad news. (Is a ‘double headline’ anything?) That required (and demanded) more of my attention than finishing a silly online novel-writing game did.
Free time and heartache snuffed my hopes of finishing NaNoWriMo this year. And worry too. I worried about money a lot this month. I always worry about money a little bit (I know exactly who I inherited that from), but this past month I became a jerk about it.
In three days many of us will begin observing Advent. For my young family, this is a chance for us to psych ourselves up for a celebration of the coming of the King at Christmas. Last year, our first Christmas as husband and wife, we read through tons of Old Testament stories, gathering names for my wife’s stellar Jesse Tree painting.
We read the stories of Adam, Abraham, Judah (my favorite), David, and the other kings. A hero was coming. Was it going to be Isaac? God promises Isaac to Abraham and Rebecca. A big deal is made about his birth and his dubious status as first-born. What’s it all come to? Three chapters in which his dad’s servant plays a bigger role and Issac makes a bad choice that his dad had already made twice before.
Reading these stories builds anticipation in us. We’re eager for the true hero to come. We already know Who He Is. So we know what to look for. We can also sense the anticipation in the characters. Will Cain be the man that will step on that serpent’s head and restore us to our proper place in Eden. Will King Josiah relieve us of the cursed pagan gods that our brothers have turned to? Will Joshua, son of Mary and Joseph, lead us to freedom from the Romans?
In each age, a different concern rises above others. The simple desire to return to Eden and, therefore, the presence of the Creator is replaced by a desire to have the Creator establish a family that will dominate the other families of the earth. And that desire by the desire for political freedom. And that with religious freedom. And each expression of discontentment springs from the same root: separation from the Creator.
Relational, political, religious freedoms shift in priority for the pre-Christian Jews. Reading through narrative parts of the Old Testament in December helps my family (the two of us) see just what was needed. A priest. A prophet. A King. A Friend. A long-forgotten relative to claim us. A mystic to stand between us and the world of the dead. A champion to defeat the giant, giving victory to us by the work of his own hands.
Jesus Christ did it. He brings religious and political freedom. It might not seem like it at times, but think about it. Who is our king?
Jesus is our long-lost relative, our kinsmen redeemer, come to claim us. Just look at his family tree in Luke’s gospel.
The Old Testament is a list of complaints, among other things. A list of the ways that Israel has failed. A list of the ways that Israel needs repaired. And Jesus Christ is the figure that absorbs the failures and cuts the path (sort of) to restoration.
Advent is the time to reflect on the many victories Christ won.
This year, I enter Advent grieving. I enter it as a failure and worrier.
My needs are many. Like the world before Christ, my many needs have fractured me. In Christ, His work, His Incarnation, His sacrifice, His resurrection, His provision of the Spirit, His building of the Kingdom, His friendship, I am whole.
Reading for Advent is not always fun. Day after day, reading about people turning away from their Creator towards the god of their bellies or the god of sex or the god of some pagan jerks who live two towns over, is intense.
Being broken as I read these stories this year will generate a massively worshipful Christmas season for me, I think.
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
One of my favorite things about Advent is seeing “God” in context. He announced Himself amid many other gods. He was and is and always will be preeminent. But He didn’t just show up and say, “I’m God.” He revealed His Godness and announced Himself by name. He told Moses His NAME. Like, Dagon is a god. Zeus is a god. And Yahweh is a god. He’s bigger and better than those other gods. He created them! He’s also the only good one of all the other gods.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to see Him as another tribal god, revealing over centuries His superiority to all others.
So seeing Him in context places Him along the wall with those other gods. What sets Him apart? Besides being the biggest and best, etc. Dagon was the god of fertility. Anu was the god of the sky. Ishtar was sort of the goddess of the sky and of sex. What is Yahweh the god of?
He’s the god of the sky, sure. And of fertility, in that He is sovereign over everything. He can be called the god of the farmers, the city-dwellers, the fishermen, the people of the plains, the people of the coasts, and the people of the mountains. Is He simply “Yahweh, the god over everything?” Yes. But He can also be identified with who He goes after. He goes after farmers and city people. But who – really who – is it that He seeks out and who is it that He ultimately saves?
Dagon can keep the farmers. Ishtar can keep the sex-obsessed. Yahweh calls them by their real names, broken sons and daughters.