By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 1, 2016
During Advent, we’re called to be quiet and reflective. This advice comes from the pulpit, as well as books, but it’s a hard message to embrace if you’re being inundated by coupons, one-day sales and commercials broadcasting how many days are left to charge your card to the limit.
No one wants to be Scrooge, so obviously we can’t sit on our hands during Advent, and then suddenly produce a tree, ornaments, cookies, dinner and, yes, some gifts—on Christmas Day.
Still, if we spend Advent running around like maniacs, scurrying through malls, wrapping mountains of gifts, decking every hall with holly, haven’t we missed the whole point?
Well, what is the point anyway? When we say the joyful mysteries of the rosary and get to the birth of Christ, we realize this miracle evokes simplicity and humility.
After all, Jesus was born in humble circumstances—and when he grew up, he said, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
And, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
In Jesus’ life, everything happened according to God’s plan. It was no accident that the inns were full that night—and the Son of God ended up in a stable.
No accident that his visitors were down-home shepherds, who were “the last” in society. And his mother was a girl who simply surrendered her heart to God’s will.
So often we ponder God’s will, as if it were a huge mystery—but Father Walter Ciszek, in “He Leadeth Me,” says there’s no reason to wonder about God’s will.
“The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people, and problems.”
We needn’t twist ourselves into knots trying to figure out God’s will. We just have to be alert and awake, so we don’t miss everyday messages.
There’s a beautiful Christmas hymn called “Would I Miss the Miracle?” with the poignant words: “If angels filled the skies tonight, would I hear them sing?” Or “Would tomorrow find me saying it was all a dream?”
The lyrics ask whether our lives are so consumed with ordinary things that we’re in danger of missing “the hope that Christmas brings.”
A few weeks ago, in a pet shop, I spotted a woman carrying a puppy, and my first thought was, “I have to pet that guy.”
I hurried up a bit, so I’d encounter her outside the store, where I admired her puppy profusely. She smiled, then looked quizzically at me. “Don’t I know you?”
We soon discovered she had helped a doctor give my husband CPR while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. She recognized me because he and I had walked by her house for decades.
What were the chances I would meet this special person that day? Was this just some meaningless coincidence—or God’s will?
Some people say the world came into being purely by accident and everything occurs by chance, so it’s pointless to seek deeper meaning in coincidences.
But those who acknowledge God as the Creator realize everything happens according to his plan.
And if we keep this in mind, we won’t stress about shaping the “perfect” Christmas, and won’t run ourselves ragged during Advent.
We needn’t sit back and do nothing, but we also don’t have to do everything. We can stop dancing to the tune of advertisers—and instead sing to the glory of God.
Let’s pray during Advent to discern God’s will in life’s ordinary moments. And pray for simplicity and humility—so we may, on Christmas Day, open our hearts to fully embrace the miracle.
Artwork (“Candy Shop”) from “Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien,” edited by Angela Gardner and illustrated by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.