Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Plans

When I think of Advent, I usually think of it in terms of my life, what I have to do during this time. There are cards to be written, gifts to be bought, meals to be planned, and visits to be made. My time just seems to fly by, and it’s so hard to get everything done – but it’s not supposed to be about me and my plans, is it?

Something I rarely think about is what the original Advent was. The Church reminds us: early on in the season is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mary being conceived without sin – a perfect body for the perfect man to born of; God’s plans thought of everything. From the time of her birth to His, was her Advent, a waiting, for the reason for which she was so uniquely born.

A friend once said that: “Women, especially women pregnant for the first time, often seem to glow, while men just smell.” Not very complimentary to men, but in truth men don’t really understand pregnancy very well, and its connection to something eternal. Women show love much better than men; they can live it in their very bodies, giving life. On the other hand men view pregnancy as a reminder that they are the head of the family, and begin to think more acutely of this responsibility. They often forget, however, that in one area they are NOT the head of the family: in love. In love, no one leads like the woman. And Mary was to give birth to the embodiment of and source of all love, Jesus.

The angel’s announcement that Mary was pregnant was a shock to her, but thereafter a mother’s love took charge in making plans for Jesus’ birth. Mary’s plans included spending time visiting relatives, but when visiting Elizabeth, she found that John’s conception had many mysteries surrounding it also. Despite the obvious fact that God was in charge, I’m sure Mary was making plans for the birth of her son, relatives to come over, neighbors to help, Joseph to be kept busy. But God had other ideas. I doubt that a birth far away from friends and relatives, in a manger – of all places!! – was in Mary’s plans. Yet despite her plans going awry she found that God’s plans had many wonderful, unexpected benefits, including the unknown “friends” who came to celebrate her son. Her long Advent ended with yet another miracle.

Shortly before Jesus’ birth Mary could have reflected on her plans and looked around the stable and thought: “Well, this sure stinks!” But she accepted God’s change of her plans, and soon thereafter she felt a joy beyond anything she could have planned or imagined: Love, God’s Love – her son, was laying there in the manger. Mary’s nine months of waiting was over. The Jewish people’s thousands of years of waiting was over. A Savior was born. Our Savior.

This Advent season is not about you or your plans. It’s about Love, waiting for it, sharing it, and most importantly, giving it. Christmas is not about our wrapped gifts, it’s about His gift: Eternal Love. It’s the gift we are supposed to give too.

As you rush through this time, pause to think about Mary’s Advent, and her preparations and the results. And don’t be discouraged if Christmas doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned; it might be so much better. Within days, everyone will forget the presents you bought them. The love you brought them, however, they can spread to their family and friends, and take with them into eternity.

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