THE UNEXPECTED OF ADVENT
“I’m gonna be down for the holidays!”
I hurriedly texted a close friend followed by a trail of emoticons to ensure my excitement was thoroughly conveyed. Having moved away from home to join university in a new country, I had missed traditional festivities for a whole 3 years. So the following year, when I began working and got my leave sanctioned, my excitement knew no bounds. I was ‘gonna be down for the holidays’ and couldn’t wait to meet old friends and neighbors.
This anticipated joy however was soon let down by the stark reality before me. The friend I texted a month ago had to attend to a family emergency. Few other friends were caught up with work assignments. Still others had drifted apart and now had their own hangouts circles. I was forced to acknowledge the disappointment and grapple the truth that this holiday was not going to turn out as I had imagined.
“Did they ever care for my friendship?” “What have I done to deserve this!” “I never liked her anyway.” And so began the negative spiral as I vouched not to waste any time making further plans with these ‘friends’ that never seemed to show-up.
Most of us at some point in our life have experienced the sting of sudden interruptions. If it’s not the holidays, then life has a queer way of knocking at the door of well-made plans, barging in, to turn our lives upside down. Not too far from the reality of Advent is it?
My story in His story
In a recent homily, a priest shared about unfulfilled expectations. Unlike my foiled holiday plans, he was referring to the liturgical season of Advent – a journey inward, into the deep of our interior life, where we are invited to face desires and dreams that arouse our sense of expectation.
When our desires are not met or take longer than our estimated timelines, the immediate response is to close our hearts and lose trust in God, in Him who we were counting on to fulfill these expectations.
“Why should I trust God?” “He doesn’t want what’s best for me.” “Who needs God? I can provide for myself.” Just like the negative dialogue that engulfs our relationships, we resolve not to waste time taking our plans to a ‘God’ who never seems to show-up on time.
That afternoon, the words of the priest transported me back in time – to days of disruption and disappointment. I reflected on my natural retort during painful delays, to shut the door of my heart in unbelief. I realized how easy it is to medicate that pain with busyness. I recounted seasons of monotonous work routines, binging TV shows or even ‘good’ ministry tasks that occupied the void of unfulfilled expectations. I realized deep within, my wound was first against God Himself, who had disappointed me, who had withheld a precious gift I was longing to behold.
When Divinity meets humanity
As I painfully faced the unmet desires of my heart, I came face to face before the reality of Advent – exposing my heart, shattering my finite perception of ‘good’ plans and inviting me beyond myself to the reality of Incarnation.
Pope Benedict XVI aptly puts it this way – “Advent is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention He has for each one of us. How often does God give us a glimpse of His love!”
Hidden in the ordinaries of our daily events are glimpses of glory, beckoning us to trust a God whose sudden entrance only seeks to make right our messy inns, broken hearts, vulnerable spaces and shattered dreams.
Can we trust in our ordinary? Can we find Him when all fails? Can we worship Him when all is removed?
Advent teaches us just that. God is intimately present in the ‘individual events of our day’. God is present as we dream beautiful dreams for the future. God is present as we anticipate hope in our relationships. God is present in prodigal home-bound journeys. And God is present when all we held dear, all we desired, crumbles to the floor. Advent is a stark reminder that God is most present there – when there is no more room for desire, when all is emptied of self, when tears and trials lose trail. Here, God is found. Here, God desires to be found. Here, God meets the deepest desire of our heart.
‘Divine Disruption’, seems to be a fitting way to describe Advent. A teenage girl with expectations of a great future, unexpectedly encountering an angel’s startling request for a scandalous pregnancy; three wise men suddenly warned to take a ‘different route’ back home after meeting the Christ child; shepherds interrupted in their routine tending of sheep by a choir of angels pointing to a manger.
Advent is both mystery and mission. Advent is both interruption and influence.
The holidays can be bitingly hard if you are experiencing the fracture of well made plans. Perhaps loneliness is creeping in after a relationship gone sour. Perhaps the sickness of a loved one wrecks your peace even after continual prayer. Maybe that job you thought would come was offered to another.
It is here, friend, in life’s most unexpected events, that we come face to face before the long expected Messiah and find rest, knowing His plans for us are good.
“Divinity is always found where you least expect to find it.” – Venerable Fulton Sheen
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brinelle D’Cruz was raised Catholic but it took moving to a desert (Qatar) to discover the Wellspring of life. There youth ministry and deep friendships made for refreshing streams alongside salivating shawarma spots. With a degree in Architecture, her aesthetic preference is like her choice of words – minimal, which is why she believes God divinely blessed her with a life-time entertainer, her husband Daniel. They make their home in Mumbai. Connect with her on Instagram @bree.mix