Thursday, December 28, 2017

Go and See the Baby

The Christmas story tells us that God became man. He arrived a baby, to a poor family, on the outskirts of the empire. No one special on the surface. But people recognized something great about him. Wisemen traveled a great distance just to find him. The angel told the shepherds the message we all follow around Christmas: Go and see the baby.

Being at the age where friends are settling down means there’s suddenly babies in my life. While I’m struggling with myself, these people are creating whole new people and keeping those tiny, soft people alive. There’s a je ne sais quoi to their big eyes taking it all in and trying to make sense of the their world.

And the world around them has changed by their presence. The parents, grandparents, and friends are all enthralled by the babies, their personalities, their schedules, their every milestone. And everyone wants to see the baby. Looking at it, holding it, be able to stop it from crying—we feel better about ourselves just by being with the baby.

I always thought it would be cool to be pregnant during Advent. But I never really thought about having a baby during Christmas. I don’t think the shepherds or wisemen were brimming with 20-something female hormones, but they still were enthralled by a baby. And we think it’s because that baby is God. But it’s also because that baby is human. Babies are enthralling: so much potential in such a small, squishy body. So much joy and love around it. It seems contradictory that God would come to us in such a humble way, but really, I can’t imagine any better one.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Quick, Rejoice!

The calendar this year really messed up Advent. With Christmas Day falling on a Monday, the fourth week of Advent gets compressed into 24 hours. There is less time to prepare, and most parties are compressed into one week (which is exhausting this introvert). Lent never pulls tricks like this, even when I could really use the shortened time there.

But then Gaudete Sunday arrived, and it lined up perfectly with the beginning of the O Antiphons. And it made so much sense. The light and joy of the third week is the perfect attitude for the antiphons. They are a joyful worship, and they build up the anticipation to Christmas. It may be a compressed Advent. It may be rushed and exhausting. But it can be joyful too.

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bewildered Lamb

While filling the house with candles and lights, the black cloud descended again. It’s the kind of dark that external light doesn’t dissipate. I tried. But in the end, I knew I just had to ride it out. I lit the Advent candles. I normally read scripture with the wreath, but for some reason, I felt compelled to find a daily devotion. And this was the one that popped up first:

“Do you know what it’s like to lose your bearings and be hopelessly adrift in a sea of uncertainty? To be alone, lost, and disoriented without a sense of direction is one of the worst fears we can encounter.” Ok, you have my attention. It went into the parable of the lost sheep.

Now, I’ve always thought that that parable was pretty straightforward: Jesus loves all of us sheep, and he’ll go to any length to gather each and every one of us in. It’s all about the shepherd. But about that sheep that got lost? “Sheep by nature are very social creatures. An isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered, disoriented, and even neurotic. Easy prey for wolves and lions! The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold.”

Since I grew up Christian, I never considered myself the lost sheep, and I never considered the condition the sheep was in. Alone, scared, disoriented, in danger. Maybe even neurotic. A sheep cannot save itself. It cannot find its own way back. It has to rely on its shepherd to find it. It can hide or it can bleat out, but mostly, it can only wait to be saved.

I can hide and wallow or I can cry out for help. But I can’t always save myself or fix the present circumstances. Sometimes I just have to wait my shepherd. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Be Alert

The last few weeks of the liturgical year are always difficult for me. The end of the long, long stretch until Advent. Thirty-four weeks of waiting around. We’ve been going through the parables for a while. There’s increasing urgency in the readings. Sheep and goats and virgins’ lamps. Stay awake, get right with God, for he’s coming any moment. It’s true, I know, but I don’t feel the urgency. It starts to sounds like a Baptist altar call. I don’t respond to threats of hell.

But I realize that the problem is me (of course).

The message is urgent, but I bop along in my same routine. Recently I was talking about evangelization with some other people, and how St. Catherine of Sienna prayed for the salvation of others’ souls. And I just don’t. I pray for others and their struggles, but I rarely outright pray for the salvation of their soul. It doesn’t seem like a pressing matter.

And I realized other’s salvation doesn’t seem pressing because mine doesn’t either. I don’t treat my soul’s care with the urgency that I should. I get in routines. I don’t pray. I let weeks pass without confession. I don’t do anything particularly bad, but I don’t do anything particularly good either. I’m waiting out the weeks. I’m daydreaming while listening to the call to stay awake.

The new year begins, and the urgency is still there; it all loops back. He comes to save, in regency and in a manger. The risen king and the incarnate babe. Stay awake, be alert. He is coming. Perhaps the colors and candles will shake me from my slothfulness.