Die Hard Advent Calendars & Hope
As we prepare to enter the season of Advent, we have the opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect on the true nature of this measure in the liturgical rhythms of the Church.
And we also get the chance to buy some really awesome Advent calendars.
In fact, today, I purchased what may be my favorite Christmas decoration purchase in a very long time. It will be delivered tomorrow, which makes me even happier.
It's a "Die Hard" Advent calendar from the motion picture Die Hard with Bruce Willis, which is absolutely, without a doubt, a Christmas movie.
The calendar is a wooden replica of Nakatomi Plaza, the high rise from the movie that is taken over by master thief and terrorist Hans Gruber and his crew of miscreants.
In the closing moments of the final struggle between Gruber and John McClane (Willis), Gruber falls dramatically from the top of the building to a well-deserved doom.
So this Advent calendar has a tiny little Hans Gruber that falls 25 floors from the beginning of December until Christmas Day. It's amazing. You move it down each day with the help of magnets.
At this point, you probably realize a couple of things: 1) I might have a twisted sense of humor, and 2) I am a genius at picking Christmas movies.
You might also be rankled a bit that a pastor would take such glee in what appears to be something a bit irreverent. If you spend time with me, you'll figure out that I have a penchant for irreverence, so there's that.
If it makes you feel any better, we have a traditional Advent calendar where different parts of the Nativity story are added daily. Also, the various nativity sets we've collected over the years will soon cover my house.
But the "secular" nature of the Die Hard Advent calendar appeals to me on many different levels.
It speaks to the earthiness and culture-bound aspect of Christ's arrival and how our expectations around the Advent season must be reframed with that in mind.
The culture of the Roman Empire dominated the first-century Middle Eastern culture within which Jesus was born. Roman culture permeated very nearly every aspect of society wherever it was planted.
I've seen enough first-century forums, amphitheaters, hippodromes, and Roman temples in the Middle East to know this is a fact, not a supposition.
Even Jewish synagogues in what is now modern-day Israel were not immune to the influence of Roman art and culture.
I once stood over the floor of an ancient synagogue decorated with a vast mosaic floor depicting astrological figures and Roman gods and goddesses. This was not an issue for most people in Jesus' day.
It was art. It was culture. It was the world within which they lived.
While they bristled and eventually rebelled against Roman economic oppression, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Jewish communities Jesus inhabited were not only aware of Roman cultural influences, they often embraced them.
Within this context, Christ arrived, taking up residency with humanity, as the Gospel of John puts it.
And this gives me joy and hope because the Christian tradition teaches us that Christ keeps arriving; the Messiah shows up throughout the ages and inhabits the world within which we live.
For this reason, when I look at my "Die Hard" Advent calendar, I will remember that Christ's arrival into the world isn't neat, clean, picturesque, and most definitely not bound to a time long ago.
As Advent approaches, I want to hold on to the hope that this brings. We aren't just telling the story of something that happened; we are telling the ongoing story of an event that never ends.
Jesus shows up whenever and wherever love is needed, peace is sought, hope is failing, and joy has disappeared. Jesus shows up in our time and space, and how we mark that arrival should remind us of that.
Happy Almost-Advent. Hans Gruber will be falling soon in my house; bless him.
But my hope will be rising.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.