“The beginning is near!”
That’s what the sign said. “The beginning is near!” The sign, the one in the photo. The photo of the man, holding the cardboard sign, on which was written, “The beginning is near!”
It made me laugh. It’s a great play on the image of folks walking around with “The end is near” signs.
But it is not a joke; It is a theological truth. In Advent, we proclaim that the beginning is near. John the Baptist called out in the wilderness for repentance, proclaiming not that anyone was leaving, but that the Messiah was drawing near. In Advent, we remember that we are soon celebrating an arrival; the baby soon to be born is God in the flesh, and nothing will be the same again. It’s a new beginning.
Every baby is a new beginning. Every baby shakes up the world. I just spent the week with our newest grandson, Bryson, who is 4 months old. He was born to 36-year-old first-time parents. Their lives are very different now! This new beginning changed everything – how they spend their time (staying home more, changing lots of diapers, etc,) how they spend their money (on the baby, of course!) and how they spend their vacation time (their international gallivanting is going to suffer a major slowdown.)
Bryson’s birth changed what they talk about over dinner, with whom they spend their down time (more parents of young children, fewer childless folks.) Everything. That new beginning changed the lives of a lot of folks around him, as well.
If the birth of an eight-pound human baby can wreak such havoc in the lives of a family, it’s not such a surprise that the birth of a (?) pound package of God wrought havoc with the entire world.
Jesus’ birth, the new beginning, changed everything. The announcement of his birth, made first to shepherds – outsiders – people who couldn’t keep the purity laws and so were unclean, was the first of a lifetime of shakeups to the religious system.
For the first time, God was walking around on earth, in solidarity with humanity, sharing joys and sorrows, befriending those on the margins, telling and demonstrating God’s love.
Becca and Chris did a lot to prepare for Bryson’s birth. From childbirth classes to obstetrician visits to painting a room, from buying diapers to furniture and everything in between, from rethinking their work schedules to changing their understanding of themselves (parents, now!)
That’s just for one little human baby.
If preparing for a human baby requires so much, how is it that we offer so little in preparing for the birth of God into the world? Oh, I don’t think that we need to be busier right now. I don’t think that we need to be doing MORE to get ready for the beginning; I think that we probably need to offer more by doing less. We can then spend that time truly preparing.
Preparing our hearts and lives. Because the beginning is near!
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at email@example.com.