One of the stories at Christmas is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, being given the news by an angel that she is going to be pregnant. Such news must have struck Mary with a sense of fear and trepidation of any unmarried woman who is told that she is pregnant.
How will Joseph take the news? Will he believe her? Will he break their engagement? Will she be stoned to death? It is a story of absolute trust and obedience. Her response, "Be it unto me, according to Your word" is both an inspiration as well as a challenge for all of us who seek to delight in the will of God.
Seeking and doing God's will is no simple or easy task. It is a choice that will take us right into the heart of a spiritual warfare. Richard Foster draws attention to the high cost of being faithful to God for the blessing of divine vocation can also be a great burden. He noted that those "who work for God, who dare to say yes to the divine summons, who dare to speak up for God, are often persecuted, victimized, and made lonely. Divine vocation does not always lead to earthly happiness.”
The prophet Jeremiah found it a joy and his heart's delight when he discovered God's Word and devoured them. And yet, he too was led to question why he was suffering from an incurable wound. He felt that God's help seemed as uncertain as a seasonal brook and like a spring that has gone dry. He then received the following response from God:
"If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you! They will fight against you like an attacking army, but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze. They will not conquer you, for I am with you to protect and rescue you. I, the Lord, have spoken! Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men. I will rescue you from their cruel hands." (Jeremiah 15:16-21).
God’s assurance to Jeremiah that He will be with him is the secret of how we can find joy in delighting in God’s will for our lives. Our joy does not depend on what happens to us – on our success or prosperity - but on the glorious riches of the mystery that Christ is living in us giving us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). It is this mystery that empowers us to find joy in our sorrows, pain, grief and tribulations. Brian McLaren makes the point that "our yes counts most when we receive mistreatments rather than praise for our effort. That's why the theme of suffering for doing good is so central to all our spiritual traditions."
The real message of Advent is that Love came down at Christmas. We are not called to celebrate a “Merry Christmas” but to proclaim the wonderful mystery that Christ has come and is in us so that there will be love, joy and peace in a world that is infected by greed and lust. The season of Advent is a time when we spring clean our hearts so that there will be room for the Christ child to be born in our hearts. It is a time to prepare our hearts so that we can truly sing with our hearts and souls on Christmas Day:
"Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!