Our world is suffering from our refusal to depend on God, from our insistence on applying merely human approaches and solutions to difficulties rooted in our relationship to God. The result is that we are running out of resources, even clean air and water, and we suffer from the inanity of the political circus. We still rather go to war than conquer hearts. And we are most definitely still searching for a saviour; think of how we celebrate superheroes.
Advent is a time of waiting for God, who alone can solve our human problems. Our Mass readings dwell especially on how that played out in the Old Testament as Israel looked for the Messiah to come and save them. But God was already at work, and had been from before Creation, not so much to solve those problems as to bring us safely through that part of our human experience in order for us to be happy with Him in a mature way.
That presence and labour of God was not manifest though. It demanded faith and hope in Him for us to detect it. And God did reward His people — all of us, whether we knew Him and tried to serve Him or not — with the Messiah and salvation, just not what His people had expected. Who would have imagined that the Messiah would be a baby born in a stable?
In St Luke’s gospel for today, one of the major themes is that of God keeping His promises, and Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna, all stress that God actually does keep His promises — or that one single promise in its various forms.
“He has come to the aid of Israel His servant, mindful of His mercy — according to the promise He made to our ancestors, of His mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
Christmas is a revelation of this same keeping of promises, of God’s being with His people, but in a way that goes far, far beyond what anyone had understood the promises to mean. This is why Mary's Magnificat is a song of such amazing joy: “He has come to the aid of Israel His servant, mindful of His mercy — according to the promise He made to our ancestors, of His mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever.” Her words reflect the concerns of the anawim, the poor and downtrodden, and show her reliance, like theirs, on God alone. And this is the joy and amazement that we celebrate today in our confident hope as we see God's love coming to light.
While we await the revelation of the Messiah in our current age, this time in the fullness of His glory and power, we too must live in faith and hope... and in radical Christian charity, not just community service and polite words and works. That hope is living in a complete dependance on God, like children depending on their parents.
We must live as if the Kingdom were already not only present, but visible in us. Christ was already in the world, hidden in Mary’s womb, before He became visible — and even then only to those who were seeking Him. God has given us the mission, as His children, to imitate Mary in bearing Christ into the world, to gestate Him in our own depths, and to let Him take over our lives as we walk among our brothers and sisters and act in His name.
This is not a task. It is a dignity, a gift, and a responsibility that God gives His children as He lets us share not only in His life as infants, but in His creative, healing work as we reach to become more mature and ever-growing heirs to His Son’s Kingdom. God keeps His promises not only in our world, but in us personally. We have reason to rejoice today.
CHAS KESTERMEIER, SJ
Jesuit Community, Creighton University