The birth story of Jesus is full of overwhelming realities. An angel telling a teenage girl she’s pregnant—yeah, that. Oh no, she’s pregnant. Oh no, he’s not married to her. Oh no, not another messenger angel. Oh no, there’s a long trip on the back of a donkey. Oh no, no room. Oh no, angels are singing above the field. Oh no, dignitaries in the delivery room. Oh no, Herod. Oh no, run! It’s a ridiculously frantic tale.
Overwhelmed: to turn upside down, to overthrow, to defeat completely, to inundate, to give too much of something. These are some common definitions, but none of us needs to read a dictionary to understand feeling overwhelmed. We express the reality of this feeling very often in our quite ordinary lives.
When we say we are overwhelmed it’s typically a negative expression, or at least a signal that something must change for better quality of life. This Advent, while not ignoring the negative or heaviness of being overwhelmed, we are also searching for its antithesis: the surprise of being overwhelmed with good. Overwhelmed with calm. With quiet. With insight. With choice. With freedom. With opportunity. With potential. With sameness. With relationships. With ritual. And the list goes on.
Our sermon time during Sabbath worship will attempt to put on display less obvious moments in the familiar birth of Jesus narrative. Less obvious moments are also all around us in our lives. Peter Berger calls these, “signals of transcendence.” By this he means an ordinary happening, which, when we pause to consider, has something profound or significant to say.
So, in addition to our weekly worship time, we are inviting you to consider ways of moving through Advent with just a bit more awareness and attention to the (extra)ordinary moments. This isn’t easy, and it takes practice. It takes imagination and different ways of watching and waiting.
Several people have agreed to write about their own moments of overwhelming surprise. We suspect that by experiencing their stories, we’ll all be inspired to move through Advent with heightened expectation—and watch for transcendence to show up—incarnate, even—in the most mundane of moments in this season.
This is an invitation to be overwhelmed with Advent.
—The Pastors of La Sierra University Church