The Advent wreath is fully lit. Its bright light allows us to see further: He comes to us in unexpected way. He comes on His own terms which challenge me to enter into the reality of God-with-us a bit more deeply.
There is a human tendency that I must become aware and do the best I can to avoid. Like King David, at times in order to make sense of God I try to put Him into a “house,” into a box. In so doing, I fool myself in thinking that I can control the divine presence, I can, therefore, manipulate Him to behave as I wish. I know this because often I have been disappointed by God: He didn’t behave according to my expectations; He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do. God reminds me that He’s coming and while He is going to stay in my box, He’s also inviting me to see Him acting creatively and majestically outside of my expectations. I think it’s normal for us wanting to control things and people and we do this in so many ways. But we must reach a point in our lives when we must trade these boxes for truer relatinship with people, where everybody can be more than we expect them to be. I know I don’t want to be placed in a box and stereotyped.
What happens when we let God be who He is? We are going to see the unexpected. This week we are going to have Mary as our model and guide to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. She is visited by an angel who brings to her the Good News. I am touched by the fact that the Incarnation, this incredible and awesome event doesn’t have the Temple as a background but a simple house. The Gospel passage is filled with proper names – of people and of places – almost to underline the reality of God coming into our own history, into our own hometown, into our own house. And the angel is not bringing the Good News to a group of priests, or scholars but to a girl.
Christmas is lived in this way; God comes to us in the reality of our own life, in the messiness of our own homes. And this new story begins with a simple but life-changing reality: “You’re full of Grace because the Lord is with you.” If I believe that Christmas is real then I have to believe that God is with me, with us, all the time. This presence must generate in us and around us “Grace,” His presence must make a difference. Grace is a wonderful, free gift that God gives us when we open ourselves to Him – it fills our hearts and fulfills our desires. How often do I live my life forgetting that He is with me? How often I act as though I have never been touched by Grace? This is the time when I, with the help of everybody I meet, can change it all, and I become more aware of this Good News: God is with me and my life has changed because of this.
I understand why Mary argues with the angel. “How can this be…?” I do the same: “Doesn’t God know who I am? Are you really sure that He picked me? Shouldn’t He go and ask that person over there who seems to be holier than I?” But the angel brought her attention to another level, making her aware that if God is with us, then it is God who creates this newness of life: “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you…”Yes, God knows very well what He’s getting into when He comes to live with me. He chose me and overshadowed me with His Spirit. Christianity is something that He does in me and asks me to collaborate, to correspond to grace so that this process of transformation can happen.
I am sure that Mary did not understand it all and, yet, she makes an act of faith: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Ultimately, I am asked to do the same: do I trust His Word more than my own ideas and opinions? Can I let God act outside the box I put Him in? And can I let Him help me to live my life outside the boxes I put myself in? It all begins with a Yes to live “according to His Word,” the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
I am immersed by the mystery of God’s presence. I am going to work extra hard this week to see God not only in the places where I expect Him to be but also, and especially, in the “realities of home.” He comes into my ordinary history, into my home, into my life in a concrete way. I am going to welcome Him even thought I might not know what He’s going to do.
I know this Christmas will be different.