You’ll miss all the heavenly glory.

A few years ago, I read a book called All This Heavenly Glory by Elizabeth Crane. The quote that the title comes from (from a Bruce Lee movie, of all places) has stayed with me: “If you gaze too hard at the finger pointing to the moon, you’ll miss all the heavenly glory.” I think that all of our Christmas activities, even the good ones, can be like this. The busy-ness of concerts and plays and baking and decorating and even Advent preparations like a calendar or a story can distract us from what we are actually celebrating. Mike and I use our favorite Advent book every other year because we found we were getting tired of it and taking it for granted when we read it every year. As we were reading it tonight, I was reminded that it talks quite a lot about the glory of heaven, too, pointing out that beautiful things like wildflowers and kindnesses are part of the glory of heaven that has spilled over to earth. (There is so much of it there, you see, that it’s easy for it to overflow.)

Our Advent series at church this year is about Mary, the first disciple. When you talk about something every year, it is always a challenge to hear it in a new way. This morning I was struck by one of the comparisons that our pastor made: by bearing God into the world in the form of Jesus, Mary made it possible for all of us to bear God into the world ourselves. Mike and I talked about it later, this idea that we can carry God into the work that we do, his light into the world, his presence and comfort into difficult situations. We are all given the opportunity to be disciples like Mary, to choose to be the handmaiden (or handmaster?) of the Lord and receive the gifts that we have been given. Make no mistake, they may be challenging gifts indeed, if Mary is any indication. The Christmas Mystery points this out, too: “There’s no point in believing what’s right unless it leads to helping people in distress.”

If we focus too much on all the (wonderful) trappings of the holiday, we will miss part of this heavenly glory: God, incarnate, who dwelt among us so that now his Spirit can live within us. And all the beautiful, difficult, messy, glorious things that means.

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