After a week, here in Costa Rica, I am acclimating. It did not frustrate me, this morning, when a chorus of howler monkeys and roosters woke me up at the crack of dawn. Yesterday I described the variations I wanted on my pizza with some forcefulness, in Spanish. We are an adaptable species.
My own quick adaptation to this splendid environment for my pilgrimage this winter, reminded me of Nikos Kazantzakis musing about how God was invited to adapt to being human when he came for us in Jesus. In The Last Temptation of Christ, he adds a further temptation to the ones listed in Matthew 4. He imagines that it was tempting not to go to the cross because Jesus might have wanted to fully adapt to being human – be a carpenter, to have a wife and children, to receive the days as they came and die without any larger interest in the life of the Spirit or in restoring creation.
It is true that most of us are adapted to sin. It can be as obvious as deciding, “The ten extra, unhealthy pounds I carry are normal for me,” or deciding that, “Since I like smoking I can adapt to the long-term destruction it is creating.” Or it can be as mysterious as not pondering, “Why I don’t feel like I know God?” or “Why I can’t let go of my guilt and shame?” or “Why does my childhood trauma make more difference to my development than my salvation?” Or it can just be about going with the herd: “If all the other monkeys are howling for IPods, so do I.” Or “If they all work seventy hours a week, so do I.” We are an adaptable species.
Maybe one of the good things about Advent is that it is a season that refuses to adapt. It is an old discipline that keeps the heart of the incarnation accessible, even when “Christmas” adapts to all sorts of perverse influences. If you observe Advent, you are going against the flow. The local Costa Ricans down the street from the palace in which I am vacationing have some pretty basic accommodations; but they have a Coca-Colaesque Santa decorations, and their bodega plays “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” translated into Spanish (uh, it is going to be 84 today). “Christmas” has acclimated to what the world thinks is important. Even the world knows that and goes with it, anyway – sometimes people focus more on “family” as an antidote, but they go with it. To focus on the coming of Jesus and his refusal to adapt, even as he becomes one with us is quite a challenge.
We’ve got ten days left. Why not be unadaptable in the ways we are usually acclimated as a way to honor God coming to be one with us and fitting us for heaven? I think the season of Advent will call us to be in our bodies, but not letting them drive us, to be in our environments but not think they are our end, to appreciate our appetites but not just feed them, to see the sin around us and not be entangled, to have open, loving eyes for a world without God and not miss Jesus coming to it.