December brings us the season of Advent, when we are invited for the four weeks before Christmas to live into a pregnant waiting, an anticipation of the unknown, and a joyful preparation for the coming of the One who offers us a new way of being. Madeline L’Engle reminds us of this in one of my favorite Advent poems:
As we ponder Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), we are called into a place, with her, of a willingness to be open to God’s work in our own life, praying to become “entirely ready” to allow God to show us the way to be released from a past we cannot change, and opened to a future in which we can be changed.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord: let it be with me according to your Word.” (Luke 1: 38) is Mary’s affirmation of faith in a God that is greater than our ego-plots trying to control everything about us and the world around us. The waiting, the preparing of the mind for grace, the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the “readiness” to really let go into God, the recognition of our great resistance to this transformation, and the actual willingness to change is perhaps the work of a lifetime, circling again and again around the great Truth which is God.
We remember that this prayer of Mary at the beginning of her journey is the same prayer of Jesus at the end of his life: “Let it be done unto me.” (Luke 22:42) The recognition that it is finally “done unto me” is the supreme insight of the Gospels, since it demonstrates grace is given and “done unto us” unearned, as we open to it.
Dare we as a community of faith offer an alternative to the frantic pace of the secular Christmas that asks us to control so much? Can we encourage each other to take time to ponder and pray, to wait and watch, to open ourselves to the ways Jesus may be coming to us in unexpected, unanticipated, unusual ways?
How do we usually think of God entering our lives? With a blast of thunder or in a blaze of light? Amazingly, God comes to us as one who is completely vulnerable, an infant in need of our love and care. Let us think of how Jesus came into a world in which there was no room for him, “no room in the inn.” How God entered the world at Christmas in the silent night, surrounded by animals to keep him warm in an insignificant stable. Will that help us wait and let go of some of our attempts to control and orchestrate everything in our day? Might there be room for God to break into our “perfectly controlled” Christmas and allow Jesus to surprise us with unanticipated joy? This “Word made flesh” comes as a baby unable to speak a word, able only to woo us to love him and not be afraid of holding him. God may show us a new way in which love takes the place of force, connection triumphs over “winning at all costs”, and less activity actually makes our lives richer, deeper, and fuller.
May this Advent offer us the “infinite in the infant”, pondering that bright star that points us to this most unusual place where “once for a shining moment heaven touches earth!” God enters through the very cracks in our “perfectly controlled Christmas” showing us love, kindness, compassion, and hope springing from the most unlikely people, places, and events to which we open ourselves, trusting God’s Spirit to guide us to our own Bethlehem.
May this Advent be a time in which we welcome the One who comes to free us from the tyranny of too many parties and overfilled schedules, from too much shopping, eating, drinking and general over functioning. May God surprise us again with an amazing grace that frees us from our idea of a demanding Christmas, and “does grace unto us”, releasing us to simply go on our way rejoicing and sharing the Good News: “Emmanuel! God is with us!”