the trap of thinking that we know what’s going on here

Assumed Audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

I have been thinking much the same about Advent recently as Webster says here of Passiontide:

We’ve heard the story countless times, and we have all sorts of ideas of how to interpret it. And because of this we may fall into the trap of thinking that we know what’s going on here, and that we can allot it a place in our religious scheme of things and leave the story neat and tidy. This is exactly why it’s very hard for us to hear whats being said to us. Our familiarity breeds not so much contempt as complacency: The gears of the liturgical year change yet again, we arrive at Passiontide, we know in advance what’s going to be said, and so we forget to listen, we don’t allow ourselves to be displaced or uprooted by what is set before us. Part of the struggle of reading the Bible during such times is the struggle to become real hearers of the words. The test of real hearing will not be whether we can conjure up the rather lush emotion which sometimes pervades this liturgical spell, but whether we let ourselves be told in no uncertain fashion that we are sinners, and that nowhere is this sin more visible than in Jesus’ betrayal and death.

 — Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian, John Webster, p. 51

How do we manage to hear again the word spoken to us: that God eternal took up mortal flesh? We know in advance what’s going to be said, and so we forget to listen, we don’t allow ourselves to be displaced or uprooted by what is set before us.” Because our natural tendency is to allow ourselves to grow comfortable, to take for granted that of course God took on sinews and stubbed toes, to forget that the Incarnation was miraculous not only in what happened but why: for us and our sake, that God be glorified in the redemption of those who scorned him in his glory no less than we scorn the small and pitiable things of this world.

But God did become a man, did let himself be born in squalor and poverty to upend all the wisdom and power of man and to undo sin and death and injustice and misery and sickness and make “every bad thing come untrue.” May we have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.