What about Advent calendars!?
|My Marian Advent calendar!|
Passing through the University bookshop I saw a selection of Advent calendars available but one in particular caught my eye: the one which had the beautiful icon of our Lady of Tenderness (in the photo). Each window opens to reveal a phrase or word from the Canticle of the Magnificat. For me, Advent is about waiting with Mary. It is a season of waiting, of being drawn into the spiritual discipline of anticipation. Our spiritual director is Mary, the mother of Jesus, the one in whom we see revealed the patience of God. Mary waits for the Messiah, and in doing so she invites us into a way of life that welcomes the Gospel through a posture of waiting. She is minding her own business when the angel Gabriel shows up out of the blue and completely surprises Mary. The Greek word Luke uses to describe her reaction means something like “profoundly unsettled, agitated, disturbed, or terrified.” In other words, she is completely freaked! And we can’t blame her—angels aren’t cuddly creatures with glowing halos who play the harp all day. No, angels are terrifying and powerful, wielding swords and ready to smite the enemies of God as we see in the Old Testament and especially in the Book of Revelation. It’s not necessarily a good thing to be visited by an angel. They can bring good news or bad news, and Mary is not sure what the appearance of this angel means. That’s why Gabriel’s word of reassurance is so important. He says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30, NRSV) which can translate as "Don’t be afraid, Mary, I won’t strike you dead!."
As hard as we may try, we don’t know how to prepare for God to show up. God happens in ways that we least expect and at times when we feel most unprepared. Mary’s story is now our story. We are like Mary: we’ve heard the good news of the Messiah’s coming and we aren’t sure how this good news can take shape in our lives. Like Mary we have our excuses: how can this be since I have these things going on in my life—this commitment and that circumstance. Perhaps we’ll be ready next year!
But that’s not how God operates. God doesn’t wait until we think we are ready, because God knows that we always already have all that we need. That’s what grace means: God has already given us all that we need to welcome God’s new life. So God announces and waits with us.
Yes, God waits with us—that’s an important part of the good news. Advent is also about the way God waits with us. Advent shows us the patience of God. So this Advent, let God be 'patient' with you...and you never know what will happen!