I have a special connection to today’s readings. I was the only son and was born to parents in their mid-forties. My parents believed in a personal God who acted in the world.
Christmas is a time of year when we take charge. We make the decisions. We draw up the plans. We spend these days shopping and making things ready.
Today’s readings remind me of the way I perceive that God works. He doesn’t stick to our script. Just when we thought we had things in hand, we learn how little in control we really are. That is what I draw out of the readings. That is what I draw out of this season. God touches our world in the ways that we don’t expect.
Given the way my mind works, I like to be the one making my decisions. I feel comfortable when I am master of my destiny. I do not naturally gravitate to trusting in fate. On an intellectual level, it is often easier relegating God to a passive pantheistic role. I often find it much more intellectually satisfying to offer explanations and attribute the unexpected events to chance.
My experience takes me in a different direction. I would like to say that my direction is constantly guided by prayer. Instead my life appears to include a number of occasions when it seems that God has put something unexpected in my path. I think of the time when my life was changed for the better by a broken down car. I think of the time when my life was altered positively and inexplicably by a misplaced letter. I think of the “accidental” meeting that brought me my wife. I would like to say these things and many, many more are chance, but my real feeling is that there exists a personal, loving God. My feeling is that God cares and acts in the world.
In today’s readings Manoah is given the unexpected; Zechariah is given the unexpected. In this season, we commemorate God entering this world in a humble and unexpected way.
My prayer today is in thanksgiving for God’s unexpected gifts. I pray: “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!”
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