The Extravagance of Advent … in Freedom
Part 4 of a weekly Advent blog written by Doug Kelley and Ted Wueste
The movie, Braveheart, indelibly etched the words of William Wallace in the minds of many of us: “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take…OUR FREEDOM!” Wallace keenly recognizes that what happens to us physically does not absolutely determine what happens to us mentally and spiritually. The extravagance of Advent is that waiting and letting go (see Blogs 2 & 3 in this series) can actually result in freedom.
Freedom, like many other words and phrases in modern Western civilization (e.g., success, progress), has many unhealthy associations. Some associate freedom with doing whatever you want, regardless of its impact on others. Others associate freedom with capability – the ability to engage in certain behaviors or tasks. Still others see freedom as freedom from certain obligations and responsibilities – “I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to.”
However, Paul tells us that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). This is not a freedom that comes from volition, or ability, or sidestepping obligations and responsibilities. In fact, just the opposite. The freedom Paul is talking about is one that comes as a result of being in the Spirit. God’s Spirit. In Christ. Counterintuitively, it is a freedom from all those other “freedoms”. We are freed from what has been called the hedonic treadmill – the constant chasing after pleasure. We discussed this in the last blog, mistaking striving for the good life. In essence, we are freed from the constant striving of trying to make ourselves happy. And, as such, we are freed to release the tyranny of constantly looking for the next fun or interesting thing, or finding our worth through what we do, or avoiding those things that are inconvenient or distasteful to us. This is the freedom that God’s Spirit brings.
Indeed, we are now freed to wait for and wait in Emmanuel, God with us. Think about this for a moment. Find a quiet spot. Take a couple of deep breaths. Relax. Clear your mind. How would it change your life, right now, if you were aware that you are with God, in Christ? Not aware as in you know intellectually that you are in Christ. But aware as if your senses are reeling with it.
In Living in Bonus Time: Surviving Cancer, Finding New Purpose, Alec Hill, emeritus president for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship USA, distinguishes between the Greek words chronos and kairos. Chronos is chronological time (“See you Thursday at 1:00.”). Kairos, however, represents moments that somehow change our lives. Moments where we sense God’s presence.
In his book, Alec describes how cancer reoriented him from chronos to kairos. Ted and I (Doug) have experienced that, too. But you don’t have to experience something traumatic to know God’s presence. As Ann and I walked today, she stopped to smell some roses (I’m not making this up. We literally stopped to smell the roses). She spoke of how great they smelled and I could see her countenance brighten as a result of inhaling the aroma. Then, even though I’ve smelled roses before and intellectually know what they smell like, I decided to go over and take a deep whiff of one beautiful little blossom. Transformation, my friends. The aroma was life giving. My spirit wasn’t freed by believing something about the rose, but by experiencing the rose – just being there with it, engulfed in it, for a moment.
Alec Hill shares an old French saying, en peu d’heure Dieu labeure, which means God works in moments. In that spirit, consider the following words from the classic German carol, Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming:
This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.
Letting go of our own striving, we wait. We wait for the presence of the Lord. For moments where we sense the Spirit of the Lord. For freedom. Extravagance. Advent.
Prayer: Lord, give me courage and strength to let go and wait. Help me to experience true freedom in moments where I sense the presence of the Lord. Amen.
Question for reflection: What intentional choices can you make to experience the presence of the Lord this advent?
Reflect on the words of 2 Cor 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Sit with those words and repeat them slowly until they sink down into your heart.