Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finding Jesus in our Midst

I often feel a little overwhelmed by the enormity of problems that the world we live in faces. As a daily newspaper reader, I am aware of murder, war, hatred, violence. I ideologically oppose all of these, and yet I see the roots of each one in my own life. Sometimes I feel a surge of maternal instinct well up that makes me know that I too would be capable of murder, given the right alignment of circumstance. Whether it is an argument with a family member, an irrational prejudice I find myself holding, or the need to control my environment a little too much, the reminders of my own participation in the web of world suffering are ample.

During Advent, I am called in new ways to wonder what being a people of waiting means in such a world. How am I supposed to be looking for Jesus, the Prince of Peace in our midst, when it seems like Jesus is nowhere to be found. And yet, it is Jesus himself who in the Gospel reminds me to constantly watch and be alert, challenges me to be awake and not sleeping. It is those moments of wakefulness, which are all too brief, when I recognize Jesus in strangers, beautiful things, moments of despair, and friends and family members that bring me into fullest communion with God.

And yet when I look back on my life, almost all of those moments, so profound to my own spiritual journey, have been teeny and insignificant, not momentous or earth-shattering. It's something like the arrival of Jesus himself, which the Jewish people were anticipating would be an earth-shattering event. The prophet Isaiah calls on God to "rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you." But God had more modest plans involving an unwed teen mother, a carpenter, and a manger. Jesus' entry into the world, which we are currently so eagerly anticipating, was a whisper in a world of disorder. It was quiet and humble and forgettable, just like those moments of witnessing Jesus' in my own midst today.

This Advent, I am going to try to remember the smallness of the whole thing while celebrating the hugeness of its implications. I hope my own carol will be more like an Capella lullaby to a sleeping child than the Hallelujah chorus of the Messiah. And I hope that my own small gestures-- of being present to the moment, pausing between activities to say a prayer and remember the God that formed me, being thankful every chance I get for the beauty of every person and creature God has created-- will be the ones that call Jesus into my midst and transform this broken and hurting world.

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