Being spiritually alert and attentive to the richness of the Advent and Christmas seasons means that we are alert to the promises of God. Here are a few themes for us to savor as we try to stay alert:
From the earliest days of the Old Testament and from our own earliest days, angels have been our protectors, guides, companions and the carriers of messages from our God to us. “See, I am sending my angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared for you. Be attentive and hear his voice.” (Ex.23. 20–21) When have you experienced angels?
One of the simplest ways of grasping the meaning of the virgin birth is to say that Jesus‘ birth was extraordinary. .He came as we would not expect. We can live more engagingly with the mystery of Christ’s birth if we allow Jesus come to us in unexpected ways.
Implicit in the messages the angels brought Mary and Joseph separately was the same subtext: Stop worrying. Details will follow. Mary and Joseph did not see the whole picture immediately. Why do we think we should?
In the committed love of people for one another, God is always present (recognized or not). Think Mary and Joseph, Zachary and Elizabeth before their respective annunciations. Do you see God active and loving in the committed relationships you have with others, or does God go unrecognized?
God who travels with us is also at the end of the journey in the people who await us. Think about God in the innkeeper in Bethlehem, who welcomed Mary and Joseph giving them whatever he could. Where has God met you (or the people you love) at the end of the journey?
In the events of life, the poor have a place alongside the wealthy and wise. Whether we are magi or shepherds, we are welcomed into the presence of the Child. It’s not the little or the much we bring that matters. Our very presence, and acceptance of the presence of those who stand alongside us, is all.
The enemies of God will threaten us but will not succeed. Or to put it another way, our lives of faith threaten the enemies of God. Herod, in Matthew’s Gospel, had limited power but did not want anyone else to have it. He brought no compassion or mercy, no sense of wonder to the people. But the Magi, and the Holy Family escaped him. When and how have we escaped from the enemies of God?
The future belongs to those who hope and who pass on a reason to hope. Hope means to accept unseen the word of promise for life that is brought by the Unexpected Other. Despair and dejection can block our perception of the future. How and when have you found hope this year?
Be echoes of God. Be like God this week: rejoice over someone else just as God rejoices. “God will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” (Zeph.3.17) This week, audibly rejoice over others. “How glad I am to have you as a friend, a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a spouse.”
~Sister Joan Sobala