*picture credits here*
It has been a very busy Advent for me, the kind that sets off and starts out with hustle and much more bustle :-
1. on the work front - changes in my job scope and a fresh set of challenges;
2. CG, wrapping up for 2011 and preparing for 2012, and sending off one of our dear brothers in Christ, George;
3. tidying up the house here in KD and preparing for homecoming as my aunt, uncle and cousins come back for a Christmas visit.
and preparing to meet the Christ child, somehow, at the back of my heart and mind, underneath all this running around and chaos. Year after year, I know it:-
the angel appears, Mary says Yes, Jesus is born, the angels sing, the shepherds come and worship, then the 3 wise men and then Christ is presented to Simeon ... I can recite these events in quick succession.
But what does it all mean? I've spent very little time thinking about this, and even less praying about this. Instead, I've accepted this sequence of events - one leading to another - to finally end on the Cross and the Resurrection 3 days after.
And so I wait, as I have been told, Advent is the season to wait for Christ's birth and His coming as a child. In darker moments, I wonder what exactly I am waiting for, sorely tempted to bury myself in the restless rush of presents, parties, food, festive fun. Or work, in a more sadistic frame of mind.
Until one fine day, when dried and drained out by all the giving giving giving that everyone has demanded so far, I just sit in silence, all by myself before the Blessed Sacrament. Nursing the remnants of the flu, there's only my sniffling slightly and the quiet of the place. So much louder and more eloquent than any words anyone could say. I hear nothing else, but I leave with a sense of peace and a comforted heart. No answers, but just that.
I was thinking : let me be content with that then. Then, 2 days later, circling a parking lot in vain for a space, deep within me, a sense of God's love suffusing within my heart. The words of Isaiah 43 echo - that He regards me as precious, and has given people in exchange for me, and nations in return for my life. Suddenly, His love overwhelmed me and I realised how little I understood its depth and breadth. Over mountains, into seas of flames, He would pursue me, calling out my name over and over till He was hoarse and in the end, die for me.
In this discovery of love did I enter into the scene at the manger. Tentatively, shyly (here I was year in, year out, calling myself a believing, practising Catholic and yet not appreciating this miracle), I came forward.
The Blessed Virgin smiled at me warmly. She beckoned me to come closer and invited me, "Here, touch his cheeks". So I gently placed my hands on the Christchild's cheeks, this newborn. Divine. And yet in that moment, so vulnerable. I felt my breath lost in the beauty of the moment, the sheer hopefulness. New life began here - at this very point and both Mother Mary and Christ invited me in.
I could read the Christmas story over and over again, but until I myself came in and saw Him there, it was always something outside of me, the wrapping on a present I paid scarce attention to. But now I know, the birth of Christ is the gift itself.
Wishing all of you a truly blessed Christmas and that may you experience His love more and more in the coming year.