Advent Meditation

Flickering candles…the fragrance of evergreen…chilly wind and pink noses …vibrant purples donning the altar…cinnamon, peppermint, cocoa…an empty manger. Ah! the treasured season of Advent is upon us; the season of waiting, watching, preparing and repenting. It is a time of new-found hope and profound joy; the time to remember a promise fulfilled and one awaited.

In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear the Lord speak…

“Ask for a sign from the Lord your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky.”

The one with whom he was conversing, Ahaz, refuses, “I will not tempt the Lord!”

And so it is written,

“The Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:11-12, 14)

The sign’s realization is unveiled in Matthew’s gospel, as the angel of the Lord, speaking to the righteous Saint Joseph, explains Our Lady’s Little One,

“‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ And all of this was to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” (Matthew 1: 20b-22)

The Blessed Virgin comes to find herself to be the sign, foretold from of old, the one pointing to the Messiah. And Saint Joseph sees his young wife with new eyes, alit with reverential awe and a trembling wonderment; he is betrothed to the most blessed among women, the Mother of the Savior. Though longed after and awaited, this sign was not only a shocker but seemingly sudden! Could they have ever foreseen this, God coming to them in this way?

The Incarnation happens in our lives, again and again. In our desire to do God’s will, to be sure of His plan for us, we too seek out signs. “If you just gave me some sort of sign…then I would know, then I would run on the path Lord!”  We say this, and yet there can be a hesitancy, this uncertainty like Ahaz, not even knowing what to ask for. We may feel unprepared, inadequate, “afraid” as Saint Joseph was. Or like Our Lady, our hearts may simply pose the question, “How can this be?”

In Jesus, God gave us a sign unimaginable- we could never have thought to ask for it. It is incredible, for it is truly impossible for a virgin to be with child. That is, humanly speaking. During this season, it is clear…with God all things are possible. When Our Lady gave God permission with her “fiat”, her “be it done unto me”…the power of the Most High overshadowed her.

Mary, who was in love with God long before the angel ever came to her, offered herself completely, her humanity, her love, her littleness. She now saw all things in light of Him, in the light who is Christ. Jesus, called “the Dawn from on high,” breaks upon you and me. Like watching a sunrise, rays of light pierce that which is dark and it disperses, overcome by the new day. Jesus comes into our lives, comes in silence, and we perceive Him. It is personal and specific. He guides our feet into the way of peace.

Like our Blessed Mother, we have not only been invited to be witnesses of this great event in our salvation history, namely the event which culminates at Christmas, that of the wedding of divinity to humanity, but by our very baptism we were called to participate in this spousal mystery unfolding within our souls by grace.  By our own surrender to the workings of the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ is conceived and nourished in our own hearts and minds, and we in turn bear Him to a world that seems so unlike that of ancient Israel–who long awaited and sought out their Messiah. It would seem this culture does not know for Whom it is longing… Jesus, who came to ransom lonely exiles. And so our hearts sing out for all the world to hear, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee Israel!”

Caryll Houselander, in the The Reed of God, wrote that Advent is “the season of the seed.” A seed grows in secret, in silence, and in darkness; this time is necessary and cannot be avoided or rushed.

“ If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us that we do not disturb this time of growth…Christ is being formed in our lives from what we are. We must trust Him for this…not try(ing) to force Christ’s growth in us, but with a deep gratitude for the light burning secretly in our darkness, we must fold our concentrated love upon Him like earth, surrounding, holding, and nourishing the seed.”

May you rejoice this Advent season, as we marvel over His first coming, and look to his final one, may our hearts perceive His daily coming to us, in SILENCE, in the Word of scripture, the word of friend or stranger, the word of absolution, and Word dwelling among us in the Eucharist. This Advent, as you prepare to receive the Baby Jesus anew, give Him time to “show you the sign” you long for, by allowing Him to speak to you in silence. Try to spend time everyday in silence, perhaps with the Gospel of the day, allowing the life of Christ to grow in you.