Advent Notes: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
God is with us.
These are comforting words, and they are meant to comfort, but not only to comfort, for the Incarnation means more than God coming down and becoming man, as wonderful and as awe inspiring as that truth is. Paul wrote, “But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ … , and raised us up with Him, and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places … “ Jesus said, I “will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” We are to be where the Lord is; through His power and grace, we are raised to be with Him.
Somehow, however, we just don’t get it.
Maybe it is because the serpent in the Garden of Eden was even more clever than we usually give him credit for being. He told a lie so close to the truth that it’s not surprising that we “fell” for it. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In fact, man was indeed created to be “like God”. God made us in His image and after His likeness, but when we turned from Him, we lost the image, the reflection, the semblance of God, and we cannot recover it for ourselves. Yet, God Himself restored it in Christ. As Christians, we are called to be like Him, to become what God created us to be.
Yet, instead of receiving this message as good news and acting on it with God’s grace, we prefer to moralize insisting that, in fact, we alone do know what is good and evil and therefore we can make sweeping pronouncements about everything from the fine points of theology to politics to vaccines. It sometimes seems as though what many want to do is to reverse the roles and make God in their own image complete with their own opinions, attitudes and prejudices. The result is that we become deaf and blind, unable to hear not only others, but also unable to perceive the presence of the God who is with us.
Perhaps we need to learn again to listen, for as St. Bernard wrote, “We merit the beatific vision by our constancy in listening … Since the sense of sight is not yet ready, let us rouse up our hearing, let us exercise it and take in the truth … The hearing, if it be loving, alert and faithful, will restore the sight.” As we regain hearing and sight, with St. Augustine, we can then pray “Lord, give what you command, and command what you will” for we will abandon our own presuppositions and simply say, “Yes” and “Amen” to the good news that, indeed, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us… and that changes everything.
This is what the season of Advent is all about.
During Advent, we look back with great joy and thanksgiving to the birth of our Lord and Savior in Bethlehem even as we look ahead with great hope to the coming of Christ in glory at the end of the age. But Advent is not just a season of commemoration and anticipation; it is also a time to remind ourselves that now, right here and now in the present moment, is the time to pray, “Even so. Come, Lord Jesus! ” knowing, as we pray, that we have already been found by the One we seek.
Thomas Merton once wrote, “A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.”
May God help us in the seeking, and in the finding, in the listening and in the living. May we find in Advent the profound truth that, indeed, God is with us…