This post originally appeared on Mockingbird
On Sunday night, the nightmare I was hoping to avoid came true: I broke the Internet. No, I don’t mean like THAT (Kim Kardashian-style); my breaking of the Internet came in the form of crashing a client’s website. (Meghann, if you’re reading this: everything is fine!) I was in my kitchen around 8:00 pm, looking forward to launching a website I’d worked on for months. But as I progressed through the steps involved, I realized I had made a mistake that not only took the old website offline, but also seemed to wipe out the updates I had worked on for dozens of painstaking hours. And I had no idea how to fix any of it.
I panicked. I began to sweat. I shouted statements like “This is a living hell!” and “I’m about to get sick!” and “Come now, Jesus!” amongst other — let’s call them, “charged” — statements which I will not repeat here for the sake of my morality and yours. After subjecting my roommate to witnessing a new level of my broken-website-induced brokenness, I frantically found a live chat support feature from my hosting provider. “I am in a crisis right now!!!” I typed, setting the stage for my tech support representative, “Martin D.” Throughout the course of our conversation, Martin’s technical descriptions and solutions were interrupted with my own statements like, “This is my worst nightmare come alive, haha!” (Tip: Add “haha” to suggest intact sanity.)
After ample assistance and encouragement from Martin, my broken patch of Internet was repaired. “Keep in mind that there are many tutorials and articles that can help with things like this,” Martin reminded me at the end of our chat. “Thank you … I just really needed assurance from a real person. I was so scared!” I typed. “I understand. I’m here to help,” Martin replied.
I took a deep breath, patted my empathetic golden retriever’s nearby head, and laughed. “It’s all going to be okay!” I shouted to my roommate. “That was a Jesus moment!” she joked back. “Totally!” I quickly replied. But then I had a moment of pause. The exchange struck me.
Maybe there was more to my “Come now, Jesus!” plea than I had first realized. Maybe my second-Sunday-of-Advent technical support chat was a small signpost pointing to a bigger truth of this holiday season. “I’m in a crisis right now. I was so scared. I just needed assurance from a real person.” And my tech support rep’s answer? “I understand. I’m here to help.” I’m not suggesting that Martin D. is the Messiah, though he did save my day. But my interaction with “Customer Care Representative” Martin helped me understand more than the solution to my broken website; it gave me a powerful look into my response to my own brokenness, too.
Living through one of the oddest and most alarming Advents of my life has felt much like my website crash disaster — all around me exist problems I have no idea how to fix. I cuss about Zoom Church. I miss passing the peace and drinking from a common cup of watered down wine and hearing my pew-neighbor sing off-key to the somber refrain to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I make declarations about the end of the world. I hate this strange season of sickness and how it’s revealed all the broken things that seem beyond fixing, myself included.
“Keep in mind that there are many tutorials and articles that can help with things like this,” says the Internet. “Okay!” I shout back, sweating, panicking, hoping they’re right. Every year, Advent rolls around, and with it come countless devotionals, limited-run podcasts, YouTube video series, coloring pages, craft kits, and more — Christianity’s “tutorials and articles,” if you will. I love an Advent article as much as the next Mockingbird reader (heck, I’m writing one right now), but in Pandemic-era Advent, I’ve found these resources wanting. I need more assurance than an article; I want the tangible, the touchable, the personal, the incarnational. “I just need assurance from a real person.” And I don’t mean Martin D. or Dr. Fauci or the vaccine makers at Pfizer. I mean Emmanuel.
For many people, God might seem like a cosmic tech support representative who provides no personal support in our brokenness other than telling us to look at an article we already read but couldn’t understand. “Read the Bible! Don’t forget to pray!” END CHAT. But this holiday season is a reminder of a different story. This story centers on a God who witnessed the desperation of our situation and offered a deeply personal solution. Christmas is the answer we were desperately hoping to hear when we had no idea how to fix any of the problems before us.
The Incarnation brought God to us: born in the hill country of Bethlehem, Christ strangely yet truly dwells with me while I sit at my kitchen table in Ohio on a December night, cussing and making apocalyptic declarations to my tech support representative. And not only does the Incarnate Jesus see all of this, but he understands it all, too. He understands the frustration, the pain, and the loneliness of this life that you and I and everyone we know are living. He saw the brokenness and decided to come and become broken on Calvary’s hill for it in order that brokenness might one day be dealt a death blow. This is the miracle of the Incarnation. It’s always been true, but this year, when so many of us are saying, “I am in a crisis right now!” this miracle is one I do not want to simply hear and reply, “Totally!” before moving on. No, I want to pause and be struck by the truth of what Emmanuel, God-with-us, really means.
Frederick Buechner’s wonderful Advent essay “Delay” discusses this truth:
“Deep is the darkness of our time — of our land and of all lands and of all of us. And most of what light comes our way is as random and elusive as the lights of cars winding up the long hill [on a winter] night. It is not a great light we have seen but only a small light […]The great light that our small light foretells is that the one who from the beginning has led us out, led us forth, and who has been with us through the perpetual ruins we have wandered in ever since, and through the long delay, is the one whom we wait for in great hope and who in great hope waits also for us.
In this dark night of waiting — whether it be for a vaccine, a job offer, a report that the chemo is working, or that Martin D. has fixed your broken website — it is a comfort and joy to know we do not wait in vain, without hope, or without an empathetic Savior. Christmas was the greatest answer God provided to our darkness — a solution that is not a temporary fix, but an act of restoration. All around us are small signposts, flickers of light, pointing and foretelling a bigger truth. In the midst of the places we find ourselves, we also find reminders that the redemption story is not waiting to start, but that we are a part of it right now.
The suffering of this season, this pandemic, this life of mine and yours is far from over. There surely exist days ahead in which I will once again cry out, “I’m in a crisis right now!” But this season reminds me of Emmanuel’s tender, true, and real reply: “I understand. I’m here to help.”