Mike’s Meditations: God in Our Everyday Lives

by Mike Van Vranken

Our seasons of Advent and Christmas run together as if they are one experience. As hard as we try to keep them separate; trying to live them as two independent occasions, we end up engaging them as one season of hope and joy. Lasting around 45 days, a little longer than Lent, we find ourselves mostly preparing for the Christ child by buying gifts, attending parties and trying to cram more activities in each day than is actually possible. We eventually slump with fatigue and ask: “How did such a spiritual time become so secular?”

But why are we so surprised?  This spiritual event is actually very historical – very human.  Oh yes, it all began when the God of the universe chose to burst into our earthly realm in the form of a man – a human being.  We call this the Incarnation; God made man. We’ve spent 2,000 years trying to explain it. But it’s a mystery.  It’s supernatural. We believe it by faith. But then, it happened in the physical. It is very real – very earthy. So, it’s no wonder we get caught up in the worldliness of it all. After all, it is where we live: in the world.

Yet, we still try to keep it spiritual.  We want to remember the reason for it all. That God promised to send us an anointed savior. He pledged that this savior would free us from sin and offer us the gift of living with Him forever. We know this in faith. But for now, we experience this savior – the one we call Jesus – in our everyday lives. And in our busyness, it is very difficult to be aware of the Jesus within us – and within those around us. So how do we participate in this spiritual/physical miracle we call Advent and Christmas?

Fr. Karl Rahner once wrote that “the great experiences in life” are “gifts of God and God’s mercy, yet they tend to be mostly given to those who are prepared to receive them.”  We ask ourselves at this time of year: “Am I prepared for this grace, this gift of God to celebrate Jesus with all of the awe and purpose that he deserves?”  “Have I taken the time to slow down, anticipate his coming, receive him as the Christ child, and encounter him in both a human and spiritual way?”  “Have I ever taken the time and effort to even know what that means?”

It can begin when we become silent. Again, quoting Father Rahner, “Take courage to be alone.” Alone with God.  This, of course, is the reality we are talking about. Our physical body in our physical world being alone with our spiritual God. It may be difficult at first, but we know we must maintain our silence and remain with it.  We use our memories, understanding and imagination.  We stay silent. And eventually, in the darkness of our silence, in the depths of our hearts, we understand the Advent/Christmas message: God is near – God is here!  He came to us. He is with us – Emmanuel.

Fr. Rahner concludes: “Only the experience of the heart allows one to truly grasp the faith message of Christmas: God has become human.”  And for us, it means He understands our daily lives. He understands our heartaches and frustrations, our joys and our hopes, our trials and our sorrows. He doesn’t just try to imagine them. He loved us so much that He came and experienced them just like we do. He knows your feelings, so in the silence, you can talk to Him because He is really present. The Jesus we long for in Advent becomes eternally present within us at Christmas. It’s not a mirage or a dream. It is real and true and it is the manifestation of God’s indescribable love for us.

Monthly Reflection:

Offer God the gift of your silent attention every day this Advent and Christmas. Sit with him in preparation of His coming during the Advent season. Thank Him for the promise of a savior. Thank Him for the promise of eternity with Him.

Clean out the clutter in your heart wherever it is needed. It may be forgiving someone, feeding a hungry person, visiting with someone who is lonely. Sit silently with God and He will show you what to do.

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