One of the things I love best about the Advent and Christmas season is the attitude of PREPARATION and ANTICIPATION. I love putting up Christmas decorations, making cookies and candy for the holidays and the feelings of good will in the air. Another aspect of this preparation that I love is the SILENCE that can be found during the Advent season too. It can be a challenge to find it in our busy world, but the moments are there. Our weather especially can prepare our hearts to be silent and ponder deeper meaning: to go outside when snow has freshly fallen (and where there are no snowplows!); to take a walk among the skeletal trees, dead leaves, and sharp winds and contemplate that periods of death and barrenness can be the preparation for new life.
Most of all during Advent, I love to contemplate what it means that God CHOSE to enter this world as a baby. This is the thing that I love most about salvation history – that is, that God always seems to choose the surprising way to manifest His love to us. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) It begins in the Old Testament with the way God begins to draw His people into covenant with Him – a new beginning through Abraham who is to trust radically a God whom he does not really know, building a nation through Moses, a man who stuttered and spoke to the pharaoh about the liberation of the Israelites only through his brother Aaron, and establishing a kingdom through David, a young boy who was still tending sheep when anointed as king.
This “surprising way” of how God manifests His LOVE to us reaches its zenith in the life of Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi was so struck by it that he established the spirituality of his religious order on this notion through constant reflection on the “Crib, Cross and Holy Eucharist.” And that notion is the surprising reality that God chooses to SAVE us, to free us from sin, to draw us into relationship by making Himself VULNERABLE, WEAK and POWERLESS. At the crib, we see the Incarnation, the entrance of the eternal God into time with all of the frailties and insecurity of a helpless baby. At the cross we encounter a God who chooses to save His people not through a blatant display of power but by being BROKEN so that this BROKEN HEART, the channel of His LOVE and MERCY, could be opened for all people. And at the tabernacle, we see the presence of Jesus under the humble appearance of bread, waiting for us to encounter Him, drawing us through LOVE: “Whom the world cannot contain, love imprisons here.” (Pope Pius XII)
My hope and prayer is that each of us can take the opportunity to STOP during this Advent season, if only for a few minutes a day, to encounter God in the silence of our hearts and contemplate this mystery of the Crib, Cross and Holy Eucharist. What was it like for God to be a baby? Why did he make Himself helpless in this way? Why did God choose to save us through death? Why was it essential in the mind of God that His Son restore us to relationship with Himself through an act of extreme vulnerability? Why does Jesus choose to dwell with us continually through His presence in the Blessed Sacrament? What meaning is conveyed through this? How do all of these events help me understand what the real definition of LOVE is? By asking questions like these we enter more deeply into the ANTICIPATION of the Advent Season and will desire to PREPARE our hearts for His coming!