Like all human beings over the centuries, we find ourselves struggling to get God’s attention. “Please God, I need a job.” “Please, God, I’ll do anything, just heal my mother.” “God, help me get into this medical school.” “God, help me break this addiction.” In this season, it is “God, we need a vaccine to end this horrible pandemic.” Or perhaps it is a more desperate plea. “God, I need food to feed my children tonight.” Whatever the request, we feel so often as if we are doing all the reaching out.
And yet, we are told in the scripture of both the Old and New Testaments that, in reality, and despite all appearances to the contrary, it is actually the other way around. It is God who is reaching out to get our attention. It is God who came looking in the garden for Adam and Eve. “Where are you, Adam?” It is God who puzzles at a people who would prefer to cling to idols made of the same wood with which they made their fires; gods who must be carried around on animals (Isaiah 44-46); gods who cannot see or hear or speak. It is God, who, throughout the book of Ezekiel, is described as making use of the nations around Jerusalem to wake them up to their evil ways—so that “they may know that I am the Lord.” It is God who, like the abandoned husband in the book of Hosea seeking his wife, goes looking for the people who have abandoned him to bring them home. It is God, who, finally, when all else had failed, came to us in the form of a baby in Bethlehem—taking into the Godhead our humanity, our suffering and our joys—submitting even to the cruelest of deaths for our sakes so that we might know the depths of God’s love and the lengths to which God would go to get our attention.
This is the mystery of Advent that contains all the other mysteries of our existence. How is it that we can feel so alone in a world where God is supposedly present everywhere? Why does God seem to hide or step back into the shadows just when we feel we need God most? Why does it seem that He asks of us more than we think we can bear? Sometimes, it is even, why doesn’t God just leave us alone to do what we want? Why does God even want our participation in his plans? Why does God even care?
In this season, we are invited to reflect on the God “who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15) but who has chosen to come near to us in the most vulnerable of ways—as a baby—as a son—to show us the heart of the Father (John 1:17-18). If we want to know this God who wants to get our attention even more than we want to get his, we must come close to this child of Bethlehem.
May we, in the second week of Advent, have the courage to draw near and make room in our hearts and lives for the God who waits for us, even as we wait.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976