Advent is a season of surprise and imagination.
The lectionary texts for the First Sunday of Advent included Isaiah 64, where the prophet ponders the “wonders beyond all expectations” God has done in the world.
The Scriptures invite us to imagine a God who catches us by surprise.
When Jesus was born, it caught the world by surprise. And I think this element of surprise brings God joy: that redemption would show up in a place that was thought forgotten or abandoned, that the surprise of God was first revealed to (and for) those who were lowly and meek.
Later in the passage, the prophet invites God’s people to imagine themselves, collectively, as clay and to imagine God as the potter who works tirelessly and creatively to form and shape a people who participate in the ongoing creation of the world.
This isn’t the God we (or our world) might typically imagine - a god likened to a stern old man in the clouds with a big beard who constantly makes sure each of us knows that we don’t measure up. Like an eternally-grumpy Santa Claus.
What if we imagined God as a craftsman? Someone who carefully and meticulously and skillfully designed and sketched and then sourced different materials together to make something sturdy, something that will last. Someone who creates and builds and develops the spaces needed for the world to flourish?
What if we imagined God as an artist? Someone whose imagination was sparked and then compelled into creativity, creating a sculpture and painting a canvas and weaving a tapestry of life and beauty and goodness, a storyteller who’s artistry reflects and guides the intricacies and possibilities of life in the wonder-filled expanse of our universe.
What if we imagined God as caretaker or a gardener? Someone who got down into the dirt and the mud and the clay. Someone whose hands were familiar with the soil, someone who is filled with equal parts hope and patience and perseverance as they plant tiny seeds anticipating a great harvest.
The scriptures invite us to imagine God as a potter who creatively works the cay, a mother who fiercely protects her children. as a Father who is constantly looking out for his children. as a host who is always inviting, always opening the door, and never shutting it in your face.
What if, this Advent, we positioned ourselves to be surprised by God?
To be caught off guard when we find God at work in unexpected places?
To dare look for those things we’ve thought were lost?
To risk hope in the places we’ve let go of hope?
This Advent, may we step forward toward the God who was stepped toward us in the journey of becoming a people of laughter, creativity, surprise, and imagination.