Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 17, 2007
Carve out space for the presence of God
The pink candle has been lit! We're in the home stretch. Just one more candle to go! The battle is almost over. Yup, the battle.
The "holiday carols" that have been blaring from every Muzak system since Nov. 1 and the "giving is the thing" commercials have turned this month (or months, rather) into a battle, not just for our sanity, but to keep the birth of Jesus at the centre of the season. Somewhere in the middle of all the red-nosed reindeer and three-foot elves, is Jesus. It's just really, really hard to remember that he's there and even harder to see him.
It's time to stop fighting. Our faith is not about fighting. It is about being and living. Our God does not ask that we battle the world, he asks that we hand ourselves over to him, that we place ourselves in his presence, live according to his will, and in doing so transform the world. The same principle applies to Advent.
What Jesus needs and asks of us is a wee space in our hearts. Just like the stable in Bethlehem, even a small, forlorn corner will do for starters. He doesn't need us to slay snowmen, even though there is at least one on every street corner, in order to experience the joy of his birth.
The reindeer, the snowmen, the blaring music, flashing lights and "not-to-be-missed" sales can serve as an external (and superficial) reminder that something out of the ordinary is happening. Something so out of the ordinary that even our self-centred, religion-phobic, consumerist society has found some way to acknowledge it and include everyone on that acknowledgement. After all, what good is the culture around us if it won't or can't answer to our faith?
By that same token, what good is our faith if it won't or can't answer to the culture around it - and in doing so transform that culture?
In the practice of meditative prayer, one does not push thoughts and distractions away but lets them flow past, as a sign of one's intent to sit in God's presence. Instead of trying to hold on to the commercial trappings of this season, instead of trying to fight them and dismantle them, but instead letting them flow past us, so to speak, we let ourselves be reminded that something special is happening and to be a part of it. It is our faith that reminds us we must dive beneath the surface of the hullabaloo to bring any meaning to it.
How do we do this in the midst of a culture that seems, at first glance, to disregard and make our faith irrelevant?
We stop fighting. Instead we convert and transform the materialistic trappings of the world around us.
Let the reindeer and snowmen serve as a reminder that we must detach from them, that we need to carve out some time and space to be in the presence of God. Let those cartoon figures on every corner, as unorthodox as they may be, point in the direction of a quiet stable where a young woman, scared and cold, gave birth to her son in the dead of winter. A son who, even as a newborn, attracted people from far and wide wanting to just sit before him and soak in his presence.
By not holding on to or fighting the commercial trappings around us, by letting them serve as reminders to step back, we clear out space in our minds and our hearts.
That's really all we need to do. We provide the quiet shelter, the manger, and Jesus comes. He is born. He fills up that space we clear. He transforms the cartoon figures into wise-men and choirs of angels, the store-bought gifts into gifts of grace. He teaches us to sit before him and let ourselves be transformed - even if there is a curious snowman looking over our shoulder.
- Alicia Ambrosio
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