Last week, I found myself at a concert, actually in a friend’s living room. The performer was an Irish acoustic guitar player whom I had never heard before he was introduced. In my more frequent concert-going days, I pretty much saw everyone on my bucket list from long-time legends to bands that faded into or never escaped obscurity. Despite extensive exposure to live music, I was mesmerized by this person’s guitar playing. I am sure part of it was the intimacy and vulnerability of playing within inches of a gathering of strangers.
He was amazing to watch and to hear, but there was nothing exhibitionistic about it. His left hand seemed to hit each string at the exact moment his right hand pressed the chord for a particular purpose that moved beyond skillful or beautiful toward transcendent! What was also notable (especially given my limited ear) was that his playing was not flawless. Just about each piece had at least one fleeting moment where his fingers lingered, dragged, or sped, or he missed a lyric and laughed. It wasn’t jarring, but it did pull you back a bit until his intricate work returned you to that place.
I started to think about how much more cover most instrumentalists have, whether it be a much larger venue, accompanying instruments, amps and pedals, a more familiar setlist, simpler style, or just playing safely within one’s limits. But in my opinion what he was able to do was only possible because he had no cover. It was bare and boundless.
Advent is rich with so many themes. It is a season of waiting, of preparing for and anticipating God. It is also a season where we enter into a story perfect in its imperfections. Our story is one where the light of the world depended upon a peasant girl. With no cover, she risks everything. Vulnerable to begin with, she was made more vulnerable by what she was asked and consented to do. She was stripped bare in order to bear God.
From Mary to Joseph, it is a story about vulnerability, risk, and trust. It is also a story about presenting our gifts and ourselves to God, from the tired and common shepherds to the lavish wise men. No one in the story meets God in the comforts of their own environs. Waiting for God demands that we move from where we are to where God is drawing us. I can only speak for myself, but I am comfortable with blending in, feeling secure and safe, and being good enough, but I have this gnawing feeling that God has more in store, that this Advent God is drawing me out asking me to meet Him somewhere new. Where are you settling and where might God be asking to meet you this Advent?