One Black Friday I ventured out to find a new watch and immediately located the right one. However, it needed two links removed in order to fit. “Just a minute,” the clerk said as she tinkered with the links. She continued to say that for over an hour. At one point I volunteered to try to replace the first screw that was only slightly larger than a filament, while she took care of other customers. I removed my glasses to better aim the screw into the teeny hole where it belonged. Bent over the glass-covered counter, I squinted to focus on the near-invisible slit on the screw that the little screwdriver was to go into. I also tried not to lose the tiny screw, which sadly happened for a time. After about a half hour, success! Now my clerk was taking care of a man and woman. The computer seemed to be causing her trouble. There was still another link to remove. As I paced in the aisle, the man strolled over and commented, “You have the patience of Job. What is the difference between an in-law and an outlaw?” After I asked, “What?” he said, “One can be locked up.” Then he proceeded to say, “Two men offered to deliver a pizza to the pope. The man chosen promised to split the tip with the other man. When he returned, he did—He made a vertical line with his hand.” That fellow customer did not know me from Adam, yet he took the time to brighten my frustrating morning.
We are in Advent, the season when we wait for the coming of Christ and reflect on his three comings: in history at Bethlehem, in mystery every day, and in majesty at the end of time. We usually focus on Christmas and the second coming, but let’s think about Christ’s coming in the present, in fact every day of our lives. Like a conscientious watchman, let’s be on the alert to see him come to us in unexpected ways each day. To me that morning he came in the form of a stranger. Today he might come as a phone call, an e-mail, a letter, a smile, or an offer to help. A good evening Advent practice would be to scan the day for an occurrence that would be Christ acting in our life, giving us little love-gifts. Another practice would be to exercise patience standing in line at the post office, being caught in stalled traffic, and similar situations.
Three figures are central to Advent: Mary, whose heart was ready to received Jesus; John the Baptist, who told people to get ready for the Messiah; and the prophet Isaiah, who accepted his mission after he saw the thrice-holy God on a throne. The book of Isaiah contains the verse about Immanuel (God-with-us): “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) But it also has some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible about God’s tremendous and incredible love for us:
“I have grasped you by the hand” (Isaiah 42:6).
“I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
“You are precious in my eyes and glorious, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4).
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
“I have carved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).
“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you” (Isaiah 54:10).
In the Book of Isaiah, too, watchmen are important. The watcher stands on a watchtowers day and night. (Isaiah 21:8) Watchmen look out for enemies, but they also “sing for joy” when they see the Lord coming to Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:8)
In Advent we prepare to celebrate the fact that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish bu may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But God also loves us individually and comes to us daily. He is truly “God-with-us.” We need only open our eyes and keep watch.
• In what guise has Jesus come to you lately?