Advent spits in the face of legalism. By legalism, I refer to the try-hard life where rules and accomplishments take the place of the Gospel. If you find yourself saying “I should” often, then you might have a sneaky legalism issue.
In the quiet months of the year, I get lulled into legalism. The rule-following instinct kicks in and seems to work, for a while. Mostly unaware, I measure my spiritual life regarding if I had a good quiet time, if I yelled at my kids, if I baked an apple pie for my husband. And if the hormones are in a happy place, I can get away with it and not realize the poverty of my soul.
But not during the busy months of the year, when the sacred calendar is packed with holy moments. During those moments, the perfectionist in me tries a little too hard to feel worshipful, and my soul gets pushed right off the edge of the cliff. Advent is one of those seasons where the try-hard life fails me, and the pressure of commercialism overrides the cruise-control of my spiritual life.
The baby in the manger has everything to do with God’s divine plan and nothing to do with our abilities to muster him into existence. Why, then, do I sit down with Bible in lap and press the muster button on my heart? Why do I think that if I try hard enough I can summon up some good spiritual thoughts and call it my spiritual nourishment for the day?
The only mustering that made Jesus appear was Mary’s that first Christmas. Giving birth is a messy, painful, smelly experience. Hard work is for birthing mothers, not our souls.
Here is the glorious good news about celebrating Advent. The labor is the Lord’s. The writhing struggle is his. He came into this world to battle our sin, so why do we still fight like the battle for salvation is not won?
As we fumble to set down the try-hard life and pick up grace, let us keep this in mind: In the floundering, in the grasping, Christ appears.