Second Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2011
“In the midst of the silence there was spoken in me a secret word” (Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-15).
By Marjorie George
The seminary professor strode into the classroom and greeted her students with, “Happy Advent!” Then she chuckled slightly and said, “Is that the right greeting? It’s Advent; you have to say something.” She thought for a moment. “How about ‘Have a mortifying Advent’?”
Exactly. It’s Advent, and one has to say something. We know about Advent; we have been taught that it is the season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. We get ready — by inward reflection and perhaps even bodily mortification — for Christmas day, when we relive the coming of Christ.
But what does the birth mean to me and to you? St. Augustine says that the birth of the Christ is always happening. But, we might ask with Meister Eckhart, “If it does not happen in me, what does it profit me? What matters is that it shall happen in me.” (From the essay “Where God Enters” in the book Watch for the Light.)
What does it mean for me, and for you, that the Lord God Almighty broke into human history and took the form of human flesh? I sing the carols and light the candles and celebrate the joy of Christmas with my family and with my church community. And it is good, and it is right, and it is worth celebrating.
But what does it mean for me? Not, “What’s in it for me?” or “What do I get out of this?” But “What does it mean to my soul that God became incarnate in the person of Jesus the Christ?”
I think that in that birthing moment, when eternity touched humanity, the laws of matter were set aside, the veil was rent, and a window of possibility was opened. The limitations imposed by our earthly form – our lives lived in a particular body, in a particular time and a particular place – were overcome. We, each of us, individually and personally, were given a possibility.
This is not the possibility that we will all live happily ever after – that Santa Claus is real and if we will just live good enough lives and be nice instead of naughty – one fine day we will find our stockings full of candy and toys and other fine things. It is, instead, the possibility of making an individual connection with God from the center of our souls, a connection that says, “Ah, here you are and here is where I wish to dwell, in unity with You even in the midst of the chaos of my external life.”
The Eternal One becomes flesh, visits the planet for a while, demonstrates the possibilities, and announces that those possibilities are real and are here and are now — we have but to push open the window a little and slip through it.
During Advent, we prepare our hearts, yes, but more than that, we prepare our souls to be able to recognize the possibilities God presents every single one of us. What is it that God is saying to me, to you, this Advent? What possibilities for living your life differently does he want you to see? What word, just for you, does he want you to hear in the silence?
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org