(No cats were harmed in the making of this Advent meditation.)
I adjusted my Advent prayer rituals after acquiring a third cat. Animals are supposed to have a natural fear of fire, so I was surprised when said cat wandered over my Advent candles to check out my prayer book. We were both surprised when the flame rushed up her backside. I screamed. She jumped. The flames on cat and candle, mercifully, blew out. When I caught up with the cat, she appeared relatively unsinged. I don’t think she even knew she had caught fire; she was simply confused by my sudden transformation from contemplative to banshee.
However we try to keep Advent for itself, Christmas, cat-like, has a way of creeping into every space, demanding attention. A season of mood swings: memory bleeds into nostalgia; merriment turns on a dime into hysteria; quietude explodes without warning into fiery cat farts billowing off the festive table.
It becomes ridiculous to try to hold back the chaos of Christmas, the eruption of the Incarnation of God as a mewling infant watching the stars fall. We may as well set aside our fear of fire and embrace the confusion that relocates Middle Eastern refugees into stained glass windows; satellite stations into guiding stars; the not yet into the now.
It never was a season of calm and quiet, getting ready for the birth of God. It was always going to be unpredictable, raucously holy, waiting for a God who redeems the sublime out of the ridiculous.
God, our God: God of the ridiculous and sublime; God in the quiet and the chaos; God in the crib and on the cross: in this season of anticipation and exhaustion; of joy and overwrought emotion; of decoration and decay: Emmanuel. Be God with us. Amen.