I recently saw a video on youtube entitled “Money Well Spent” in which a girl drops a coin in the hat on the ground in front of a man holding a stand-up bass. When she does the man begins to play there in the middle of a crowded plaza. Shortly the man is joined by other musicians with a cello, violins, an oboe, and then others. One by one at first and then in small groups, the cello player is eventually joined by a full orchestra and choir. The tune played by the bass player alone is almost unidentifiable, but as the man is joined by the others, it not only becomes clear that the tune is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, but the music begins to fill the plaza and more and more people begin to notice. It is striking to me that the people in the plaza are just going about their day and doing what they would normally do. They do not pay attention to the man with the cello, but they soon realize that something unusually amazing is going on and they begin to drift towards the music. “Ode to Joy” is such a familiar piece that many people in the crowd begin to anticipate the notes as they come. Children pretend to be directing the orchestra. What was an ordinary day is now transformed by this amazing event in the plaza.
I could not help but think of the approaching advent season as I reflected on the events in this video. A couple thousand years ago as a group of shepherds were watching their sheep in the night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them to bring them great joy. Soon that angel was joined by others in a great choir singing glory to God. The shepherds were amazed. (Luke 2:8-20) The coming of the messiah, Jesus, came to them in the quiet of the night as they were going about their normal routines and this unusually amazing event brought them great joy.
Advent is a time of “Preparation” in which we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord Jesus. We reflect on the Jesus’ first coming in that stable many years ago and the joy of his humble birth, but we also anticipate the return of Jesus on earth when he will bring joy in gathering his followers home and will put the world as it should be. During advent, we also prepare our hearts for fresh experience of Jesus’ birth in our own hearts. We prepare to have the joy of our salvation renewed in our hearts. In the ordinary quiet times of our lives, the joy of the Lord can surprise us if we look and listen. With expectation, we are aware that we may encounter God in the most surprising places and people. When we do have those encounters with God, we respond to the familiar tune that we have heard in our hearts so many times; the song of love, the song of peace, and the song of joy that we recognize as the tune of God at work in the world. If we are not careful, we can walk right through the plaza and miss the amazing thing that is happening. We say, we are too busy to stop and hear this music. We may be too distracted to even notice that something wonderful is happening. That is why in this season of Advent, we seek to open ourselves to a fresh experience of God – God’s love that breaks into our lives and brings us great joy…if we are paying attention.