Advent readings at Mass focus us on the coming of Jesus in Majesty at the end of time, while Christmas decorations recall his coming in History in Bethlehem, but his third coming that we commemorate during Advent is his coming in Mystery. This coming gets pushed aside. Let’s think about it, for it is the coming that most personally impacts us. Jesus comes to us mysteriously through the kindness of strangers. On Thanksgiving a newspaper appeared on lawns all down my street, but I didn’t get one. I even went out and checked behind the large maple on my tree lawn. I called the publisher and a recording informed me that I hadn’t ordered this special edition. Later, when I went out to Mass, there was a newspaper propped against my back door. When I returned from Mass, there was another paper at my front door. I can only guess that neighbors saw me looking for paper and generously gave me theirs. This thought made me feel warm and cozy all day long. That afternoon I prepared and shared a Thanksgiving meal with a woman down the street who I knew would be alone that day. So Jesus came to her through me. Now isn’t this the point of Tolstoy’s story “Martin the Cobbler”?
If you remember, Jesus told Martin he would come to him that day. All day Martin waited. People came to him for help, and he helped them. But Jesus did not appear. At the end of the day, Jesus explained to Martin that he had come to him…in the guise of all those people he had helped. Jesus comes to us as the needy people we provide Christmas gifts for via the Giving Trees in our parishes, as the hungry people we serve meals to at hunger centers, and as the people we help as we respond to some of the many requests coming in the mail or over the phone for donations. Jesus also comes to us in the members of our family whom we serve with love, tending to their needs and giving them joy.
Jesus also surprises us with gifts today and every day. We are reunited with an old friend in an unlikely place. We’re searching for something to give to a person for Christmas and it appears in an ad…and for sale! We want to know where a Scripture quotation is, and the Bible falls open to the exact page where it is located. Events like these are God’s finger acting in our lives for those who have eyes to see.
Sometimes Jesus comes to us when we least expect it. We might be driving, reading a book, listening to music, vacuuming, or quietly sitting and suddenly we are overtaken by a sense of God’s presence and love for us.
No doubt, the most impressive way that Jesus comes to us in mystery now in this “in between time” is in the Eucharist. At Christmas we celebrate that God took on flesh and became a human being. That is incredible enough. But every day at Mass he stoops to take on the forms of inanimate things: bread and wine. This truly is a mystery. Yes, God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. God also so loved the world that he becomes food and drink and shares his very life with us.
How has Jesus come to you recently? Did you recognize him?
This book is a must for all book lovers and a delight for anyone to read. Brian Doyle, a prolific author of books for adults and children as well as an editor, presents a potpourri of topics related to books. Besides discussing reading in bed (and surreptitiously reading the book your bed partner is reading), he also covers observing books on other people’s bookshelves, books people have in cars, the physical properties of books, writing rejection letters as an editor, and the refrigerator as a large, humming book. He refers to his writing appropriately as “nutty, inky adventures.” His whimsical style is characterized by sentences that run on and on but are understandable, striking vocabulary, and thoughts that take you by surprise.
As you read, you can hear Doyle speaking to you personally with a grin on his face. The book is highly entertaining while being informative. For me, the most valuable feature are the books and authors Doyle mentions that will serve as a guide for me in my next trip to the library.
Sadly, Doyle had surgery for a brain tumor the day before Thanksgiving. He and his family are in great need of prayers. A friend has put up a fundraising site for them.http://www.gofundme.com/betenderandlaugh