The time for gifts and events, food and décor, sweets, and stockings is upon us. The buzz of this season can tend to leave me frazzled and fragmented, but this year I am wondering how God might want to meet me in all of it. I want to lean hard into the message that God breaks into our lives as they are, not as we wish they were. His presence in the midst of all things.
We are more than aware that cultural Christmas has arrived, but the Church celebrates arrival during this season as well. Advent means the “coming” or “arrival” of a notable person or event. We remember that Jesus Christ has come, we look forward to His coming again, and we wonder about the ways He is coming to us each and every day.
God seems determined to be with us, determined to collide His kingdom with our world. The Incarnation means that an infinite God took on flesh. It is the crescendo of spiritual and earthy realities intersecting. God in Jesus decided to inhabit matter, to become embodied. People waited a long time for this! The fact that the Incarnation has happened holds incredible potential for our lives.
Through this event of Christ coming to and through the natural order, God communicates that matter matters! His presence poured itself into everything it is to be human. Jesus was fed, soothed, bathed, and dressed by a mother. God chose to experience physical, emotional, and psychological development. Jesus had a job with coworkers and expectations. He ate food and drank wine. He celebrated. He grieved. And what this means for us is that God cares about and wants to inhabit all of those things in our lives as well.
We are invited to the union of the sacred and the ordinary. We can look at the tangible world and allow things that we see, touch, taste, hear, and feel to connect our beings, which are inside of time and space with a God that is beyond time and space. The Advent season is full of opportunities to experience these connections.
We need tangible reminders that hold deeper meaning, connecting us to the things we can’t see. Symbols can call our souls home to our life with God. Real-life images, rich with meaning, are all over the Christmas story: a womb, the stars, presents, shepherds and astronomers going about their work, a stable, an engagement: life.
“The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner
Mary, mother of Jesus, is a guide in the practice of noticing God coming to us as we go about the business of living. The painting above is one of my favorites. It reminds us that God’s plan to unite with her came in the midst of the simple and ordinary.
How is God coming to you in the midst of your simple and ordinary? What is He saying? Is consent the posture of your heart, a willingness to cooperate with God in your daily life?
This season look for heaven meets earth connections. Here are two suggestions:
1. Consider choosing an item or sensory practice that will call your attention to the spiritual reality of God’s love and determination to be with you. You might add an ornament to your tree that symbolizes where you are on your journey. You might light a candle when you sit for prayer or Scripture readings. You might choose to wake up early, sit by a window, befriend darkness, and wait for the light to come.
2. Prayerfully reflect and journal the ways God is coming to you in your everyday.
“There’s a rich spirituality in these principles: Stay inside your commitments, be faithful, your place of work is a seminary, your work is a sacrament, your family is a monastery, your home is a sanctuary. Stay inside them, don’t betray them, learn what they are teaching you without constantly looking for life elsewhere and without constantly believing that God is elsewhere.” From Domestic Monastery by Ronald Rolheiser.
Let’s invite Christ in practical ways to“…be born in us today.”