Kathy and I have a ritual late in every Advent season to watch the movie, “The Star,” about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The reason I like it is because the sentimentality factor that sugar coats the Birth of Jesus is almost non-existent. The story is earthy, bringing to life as much as can be possibly imagined about the human element that the Divine led Mary and then Joseph through in order that we might read, “And it came to pass….”
Mary’s response to Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” later becomes Joseph’s response as both of them work together attempting to follow the vision of God. While waiting for the child to be born they are centering their attention on the presence and direction of God. Like Mary and Joseph is not our challenge the same: centering our attention on God in the midst of all the surprises that come our way. Here we find out how God works: waiting is an individual experience and yet it can be shared corporately.
Mary’s visitation by Gabriel: a solitary experience. Whom would she tell? Waiting to see her cousin Elizabeth 65 miles away near Jerusalem. Who is the person you would trust most with your innermost important secret? Then the family. No one would understand. Have you ever been blamed and misunderstood for something you didn’t do and had no way to prove it?
Then there’s Joseph: How to trust Mary’s word in spite of evidence against all odds? Then the dreams. Have you ever had a dream vivid enough that you remembered it? Did the dream mean anything? How did Joseph trust his dream? Does God still speak to us in dreams or are dreams superstitions of the old ways?
So much to be attentive to. But then the government takes its turn. Just weeks to delivery and Mary and Joseph must journey on foot and the backside of a donkey to Bethlehem 70 miles away. Rocky, dry terrain, filled with highwaymen. No exits for fast food on the way. No Motel 6 meant camping out. Vulnerability of the highest order.
So many details and diversions during the waiting period. How did Mary and Joseph maintain their attention on their highest purpose of all: The birth of the Chosen One? What could have happened within them that they risked everything – their very lives to give birth to the Holy Mystery within Mary’s womb? Surely the words of Psalm 137 crossed their memories: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” ‘Foreign’ can also mean people, places, experiences, situations and challenges that are foreign.
Christmas back then and Christmas now are different. Back then, the birth was manifested to the world. Now, the birth of Jesus is waiting to be born within us. We are waiting to be born. Something within us is yearning to be born. I have a hunch that that “something” is Some One.
How do we pay attention to the presence of God during the harried moments of our daily lives? How is it that we are able to hear, read, see or feel God’s signals? Do we act on
impulse, thought or do we wait for direction?
Waiting with awareness is extremely active, demanding our full attention.
Wait well, my friends.
May the Peace from Above be planted within you.