Is it just me, or does Advent go by faster every year?! Actually, while in the midst of them, I found the days long and difficult. Now that Christmas is here, however, they seem like a rapid and distant blur. Though I’m not sure that I did anything extra or special to make the days of Advent different from other days, in the end, I’ve come away with some realizations that are both wonderful and tiring at the same time. Once again, I stare my life’s biggest struggle in the face, and I question, “How many times must I experience the Lord’s healing before I overcome this struggle?” I realize that the truth is this will probably always be a struggle for me, but hopefully, I will continue to grow, ever so slowly out of it.
As I was making my examination of conscience the other night, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I know that God loves me, but sometimes I think that His love is conditional. That if I say my prayers devoutly, if I go about my daily duties in a spirit of charity, if I make it to mass at some point during the week, if I can be holy, then He must love me more then…but if I don’t, well, I must disappoint Him. The problem in all of this is that I struggle to really know His love. In spite of all the ways He has so intimately made Himself present, I struggle to realize that my identity and my worth is in Him, not in my prayers, not in sacrifices, not in never failing in charity. All of these things may be good, but unless I can let myself just BE in Him, the efforts are futile. On top of that, as I mentioned previously, the days have been long and trying. There is nothing so major that I must bear, it’s what seem like a thousand little pin-pricks that have me feeling worn out and desolate. That word especially kept coming to me this week, and how wonderful that the Christmas reading from Isaiah so boldly proclaims: “No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord delights in you and makes you his spouse.” This Christmas, in a way that I have not always in the past, I see and feel and know my desolation. I recognize the ways my heart is the cold and dark stable that Christ desires to be born in. That coldness and darkness is not always just the sinful places…it’s all of those places that are “forsaken” and “desolate” because Christ has not yet visited them, places that I don’t even realize that I often keep hidden from Him. It’s amazing how gentle and humble He is, though, when He visits those places. He comes in the same way as at Bethlehem, quietly, sweetly, tenderly. While the historical meaning of the text from Isaiah, of course, does not refer to me, these words jumped right out at me. He delights in me! He comes into the world a tiny, helpless, naked babe-why? Because He delights in me!
With that, I pray that all of you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas! And may you grow deeper in that realization that the Lord delights in you!