In one of the posts in last year’s Advent series, I posed this question:
“Why [did Mary, Joseph, and Jesus] flee to Egypt? If they stayed and Herod killed the child Jesus, would that not still be Jesus, the Son of God–the Incarnate God–dying unjustly at the hands of a Roman provincial governor attempting to cement the reign of the powers and principalities of the world? Why go to all that effort to wait 30 years later for the same thing to happen on a cross?”
The answer we discussed was that Christ’s purpose for coming was much bigger than the cross. He did not come just so he could die. As St. Paul said, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of this Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Jesus couldn’t die when he was so young, because the benefits we receive from his Advent are not limited to his death, but also his life. We receive his life of lived-out righteousness as our own when we come to know him.
I thought about this yesterday when pondering stand-up comedy.
I just started listening to a new podcast: WTF with Marc Maron. Moran is a “comic’s comic” and the show features open and honest interviews with other comedians about their stories, their methods, and the thinking that goes into their routines. I had heard him interviewed about the podcast on NPR before, and so I thought I’d give it a listen.
In the episode, they begin talking about how the early stages of both of their careers were marked by particularly “angry” stand-up personas that often tried to “shock” people for laughs. But then Maron said something really interesting.
He said that he did this for a while, until he realized that his reason for doing it was out of fear: mainly, fear that other people would like him. He said that there is and was such a craving to be accepted and respected by other people that he ended up doing (what he now feels are) ridiculous things that ultimately weren’t even very funny.
Isn’t this so human? So often, the silly things we do and get anxious about ultimately have this root. Aren’t we, a lot fo the times, trying to achieve or hold on to some bit of identity or desired identity when we get angry, impatient, deceptive, embarrassed, anxious, etc.?
Later, I watched one of Dylan Moran’s live shows, and he had this amazing bit about how, in the absence of religion (he’s an atheist), we seem to make other things into gods. He went through the most common ones, showing how they were each silly gods, and then said, “well, after we’ve knocked these out, what are we left with to make a god out of? Each other.” And he then begins to dismantle how and why humans make terrible gods.
One of the things he talked about is how annoying younger people are because they think they’re so awesome. At one point, he mimics a guy picking up a girl by saying, “hey, I know this good club, how about you and I go and make it great?”
He goes on to talk about how all maturity is a process of seeing how awesome you are not and stop taking yourself so seriously.
And here’s where Advent can help.
In its essence, Advent was necessary because God did not want to merely declare a forgiveness for sins and a righteousness for all; he wanted to accomplish it in the real-world, so our hope would not be in some abstract, subjective idea, theory or dogma; but in objective and historically-accomplished events done to and within a real, physical human body.
If this is true, then all the things we strive for in our silliness have already been accomplished! The affirmation, respect, love, and relationship we seek is already ours! We no longer have to be subject to these things sins and stumbles of ridiculousness we find ourselves.
And so we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. Every little thing doesn’t have to be a crisis. We can laugh at ourselves and laugh at life, knowing that the reputation we (ultimately) wish to have and the life we (ultimately) wish to live have already been bestowed upon and lived for us by another.
And so, laugh. Stop beating yourself up. Stop judging others. Stop being so sensitive. All you could ever want and need is yours.
And that might be the greatest Christmas gift of all.