I read an amazing story this week about two young women, running in a race. The race had meaning. It was the last race of the season, the last chance to qualify for the state level competition. The last race of a senior in high school with her team and her legacy on the line.
In the midst of that race, another runner began to struggle. Physically ailing, but striving to complete the run, she kept getting up each time she fell down.
The rules were clear. No runner may touch another, no runner may interfere with another runner in any way without both being disqualified.
The senior, watched her opponent fight to make it to the finish decided she had to act. Putting her arm across her shoulders and said, “You’re with me. I’ve got you.”
Being about the season of Advent can feel like a losing battle. Christmas lights have already sprung up every place you look. Carols proclaiming that Joy to the World has already come can be heard on corners and in elevators. The end of semester paper, projects, deadlines are closer every day, every hour, every minute. It can seem like you’ll never make it across the finish line, and even if you do, you’re not sure you’ll have a breath left in your body.
The Good News is that while we are in this season of Advent, this invitation to be still in the midst of the whir of activity and flashing lights and demands on our time and energy, incarnation has already happened. Yes, we put ourselves in the place of anticipation and look ahead expectantly, hopeful, allowing ourselves to build up toward an experience of thankfulness and praise at the amazing gift of God showing up in the world and in our lives at the birth of Christ – but we are looking back and looking forward at the same time.
And carrying us, already, is not just the baby Jesus still on the horizon, but the Jesus of the Gospels that has been calling us by name through story and community and communion all this time. “You’re with me. I’ve got you.” You don’t have to be completely out of breath to cross the finish line, because there is no line to cross, you are already held and surrounded by the gift of incarnation.
So give yourself a little grace if it hasn’t been the most “wonderful,” peaceful, stress-free time of the year. Give yourself a moment to recognize that you are being held, you are being carried, you are being propelled forward by the care and support of Jesus, who’s “got you.” And when you can give yourself a moment to breathe, give yourself a little mini-Advent. Maybe once a day, maybe once a week, maybe just once in the whole month of December – risk stopping mid-stride to allow yourself to wonder with hope and anticipation at the presence of Christ in this moment, the celebration of his birth on the horizon, and the ability to look back and see where all along Christ has been your companion and your support, even in the rough patches.
Advent is the season of already and not yet. You’ll make it. You’ve already made it. And when you hear the call, when you recognize the need, with courage and certainty, reach out to carry the next person who needs a helping hand. Christ’s companionship continues in you. Incarnation continues in you. Amen. Amen.