But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my saviour;
my God will hear me.
Last week, I had a dream. In my dream, I was working in one of the many homes where Karis Disability Services supports people with developmental disabilities. That’s how I started working in this field, but it has been many years since I have worked in direct support. In this dream, we were short-staffed and I needed to work a double shift. I felt tired already, knowing that such a long work day ahead of me. But as I walked into their home and greeted the men who lived there, I recognized Chris. I knew Chris in real life, many years ago, and I had worked in his home, so it wasn’t surprising that I was also supporting him in my dream. Chris died several years ago, so I was delighted to see him in my dream world. Suddenly the long day ahead of me was a treat rather than a chore.
Chris was the most “Christmas” person I’ve known. He didn’t speak with very many words, but all year long he clearly communicated that Christmas was on his mind. He would say “ho-ho” and use his hand to mime a long beard. He would then hold his hands out wide with the question on his face, “When will Santa come?” This happened frequently. The answer was usually (especially in summertime) “not for a while.” Chris’ response was always the same; a slap to the thigh, a dramatic sigh, and full-body disappointment.
One day in November, I experienced Chris’ anticipation in full. We had arrived at a local mall. Walking in the door, at the end of a very long hallway we could see Santa’s giant decorative red chair set up in the centre of the atrium. Chris exclaimed “ho-ho!” and took off running toward Santa’s throne. I sprinted, trying to keep up with him, while I urged his housemates to follow along. We reached the throne only to realize it was empty. A sign explained that Santa would be arriving in a couple weeks, after the annual parade. Chris was so heartbroken that we turned around and headed straight home, not even taking time to shop.
Chris often wore his Santa hat and frequently spoke about Christmas, throughout the entire year. His waiting and eager anticipation were so active that it made Christmas present even in its absence.
Advent is like this. Our collective, intentional, active waiting brings Christ present even as we wait. Advent feels special because of this anticipation. I wonder, might we find ways to bring this spirit of expectation into the rest of our year? Do we watch for Christ to show up in our lives in ways that are not Christmas? Do we only remember Jesus as a baby in a manger, celebrated on one day a year, or do we seek to always recognize the living presence of Christ connecting us to God and to each other?
In The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr says “Long before Jesus’s personal incarnation, Christ was deeply embedded in all things – in all things!” and Rohr urges us to become attuned to Christ’s continued presence in all things. Scripture tells us that Christ, or “the Word”, was present at creation and so Rohr points out that this means Christ has been, is, and ever will be, present among us.
We daringly believe that God’s presence was poured into a single human being, so that humanity and divinity can be seen to be operating as one in him – and therefore in us! But instead of saying that God came into the world through Jesus, maybe it would be better to say that Jesus came out of an already Christ-soaked world.
I woke up, smiling, from my dream about Chris. He brought so much joy into the world with his life. Even now, after his death, his memory does the same. As I went about my morning, I thanked God for this beautiful surprise He had given me. What a gift it had been to share a day with Chris, again.
As we celebrate Christmas, may we open our hearts to the presence of Christ in a new way. We await more than a baby’s birthday. May we eagerly anticipate, all year long, Christ’s presence in our days and nights – even in our dreams.