An Advent pondering
In the United States, professional football games become the weekend liturgies for many folks. Near the end of each half, the referees blow their whistles and take a time-out warning each team that there are only two minutes left before the end of the half. Two minutes of playing time can actually take up to fifteen minutes to play out. Those spaces are filled with advertisements and impatience.
This Fourth week of Advent is a “two-day warning”. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve having its own liturgy of Vigil and Midnight Mass. These two days can be filled also with commercials and much impatience as well. Football enthusiasts might spend their two-minute warnings in prayer of petition or gratitude. We Adventers have just a little more time for emptiness and listeningness. We take this valuable time-out so that the Christmas will not be as empty as a stadium, gameless, crowdless and meaningless.
The prophet Micah has been encouraging the people of Israel about their future. The temple will be raised high on a mountain and all nations will see Her as a holy nation. What we hear in our First Reading answers part of the question concerning how this is all going to take place.
Israel is a small area and other clans and nations are stronger. Micah announces that from the little town of Bethlehem, the place of David, the great king of Israel, will come a special person to be the awaited-for great leader. This person will be of the line of David and as with David, this “one” will bring back all of Israel into the kingdom of Israel.
From the smallest shall come forth the revelation of God’s greatness. This “one” shall bring unity of the flock and peace within and among all nations.
The Gospel is an intimate encounter between two listening women of faith. Both have trusted in the secrecy of pregnancy. They both are moved to share their secrets.
Mary has been greeted by an angel and trusts what she hears in her soul. Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting and trusts what she hears and feels within her body. Elizabeth greets Mary with a tender benediction: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Mary is pictured as having received well a tremendous gift and promise. The first thing she is moved to do is to check it out with her cousin whom she has heard is pregnant too. Reception implies grateful distribution. So much preparation for the great Gift of God’s impregnating the womb of this world. All is set now, only the waiting and watching and wanting.
Little children wonder at the process of birth. My very own nephew and wife had a baby this very morning and their three-year-old daughter has been told all about it, or as much as she can hold. It is just too much of a kind of miracle for her and I am sure for her parents as well. Christmas is like that. It is too much for us to handle and take in and be tumbled over by.
Christmas is for children then? Santas are so great, and elves, and reindeers, and Nut Crackers. All are so important for trying to take it all in. It can be too impregnating, too intimate.
Bethlehem, Israel, Mary, stable, manger, shepherds, you, me, us, all too small and yet all hold and behold the secret’s now being announced.
God has come to us according to what makes sense to our minds, unless they are filled like the “Inn” with logic and arrogance. Through our senses God has come to visit and stay. It does remain more than we can handle in our one day of life. Yet God continues to give the Gift into our little hands, our little stables, our little mangers to hold and begin distributing. He came that we might have life and be freed to give it, and Him, away in the life-long, life-giving visits we make in the lives of others. Christmas is for children, yes, but for those of us who seek intimacy in life, Christmas grows us up.
“The Virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and she will call him Emmanuel.” Is.
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