Did you ever have the experience of hearing some piece of music that you liked and, for days after, the melody keeps running through your head? Sometimes that can be a distraction. But at other times, it can be enjoyable, perhaps inspirational, or even evoke a profound and meaningful awareness as has been the case for me this past week.
The psalm we sang at last weekend’s Masses proclaimed: The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with gladness and joy! As I moved through the week, and even now recall those words, I keep calling to mind the great things God has done for me and for us.
At the heart of what God has done for us, of course, is the Incarnation—the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary in Bethlehem so long ago and still very present to us today. It is because of God’s love for us, God’s desire to “be with us” (Emmanuel) that God sent His Son to us. The One who comes to us in Bethlehem, comes out of love, for love, to teach us love and to show us the way to love. Joy, one of the most consistent themes in Advent, is always the fruit of living in love.
God is always present and immediate, ready to share His love with us. Jesus has said that He is at the door knocking: knock on the door … open it! It seems so simple. So what prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness to us?
The closeness of our God is discovered when we simply drop our façade, push aside our pride, our shame or embarrassments, forget about appearances, protocol or whatever else could cause delay or postponement—and turn to God. The voice of Advent, John the Baptist, is not timid and quiet. He is “crying out!” The call of the Baptist to each of us is to turn around, get unstuck and look to our God.
Responding to the Baptist’s call to look East and await the God Who is Love requires a choice, and no one can make it for me or for you. It is personal, private and intimate, and each one has to make the choice for oneself. Because of the implications and magnitude of this choice, I am convinced that all the powers of darkness will work overtime to obscure and distract one from making that choice. The overwhelming success of the commercialization of Christmas is the de facto proof of that force.
The first stanza of the beloved Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, includes these words: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” Maybe this is a good moment for us to recall what our hopes and fears are, share them with God, and ponder how God’s promise fulfilled in our Savior is meant to touch our lives today.
God has done great things for us. God has done great things for you. His love is unconditional and very real. God is so very close—and is waiting for you to open your heart to Him.