Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Willis.
Three names, among many, that we effortlessly associate with action, rescue, triumph.
Somewhere, something in the world – order, structure, freedom – has fallen away. Or, perhaps, evil has overwhelmed good. An ordinary man gets pressed into service and, with guns blazing and bombs blasting, he becomes a one-man rescue operation.
Loud. Aggressive. Masculine. Effective.
The world is set to rights and all is made well yet again.
Our focus is easily drawn to the dramatic, our attention uncontrollably compelled to the sensational. We want to know – we need to know – that evil can be brutally and lastingly defeated, even if we don’t quite always recognize good when we see it.
So it’s pretty easy to understand how a solid action movie can be so viscerally satisfying to our senses.
But as Isaiah (55:8) reminds, God’s ways are not our ways.
Two thousand years ago, with His people off course yet again, God Himself undertook a rescue operation.
But here’s the thing:
He could have blasted His enemies off the face of the earth. Instead, He commanded that we love our enemies.
He could have gathered up His people, and left everyone else to die. Instead, He let His people turn against Him, and He Himself died in our place.
He could have sent a Rambo. Instead, He sent a child.
A weak, helpless, physical presence in need of a mother’s loving touch, and a father’s gentle instruction.
As C.S. Lewis taught in Mere Christianity, a moment’s reflection might bring some clarity as to why a child: the dark, spiritual enemy that had overtaken the earth was so powerful, so all consuming, that Christ was obliged to arrive surreptitiously and clandestinely by sneaking behind enemy lines.
This child came armed with no weapons – except for His words.
But these words would later forge a century. Ultimately, they changed the course of the world itself.
And so we commemorate the season of Advent in these shortened days before Christmas.
It is a time when the Church
makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming (CCC 524)
To commemorate the anticipation of His birth is to also acknowledge His death, resurrection, and return.
Before I reverted to the Catholic faith, I never quite understood any of this. I had always looked upon the Advent and Christmas season as a way that we unthinkingly deflected Christ’s real power and presence in the world.I found it disturbing that we focused our attention on a helpless, infant son, instead of upon the saving grace and the healing power of the mature Son of Man.
But it’s all part and parcel of the same event, the same heroic rescue.
This is what I had been missing about Advent all of these years.
I think I get it now.
But there’s more, something that I ran across today.
Caryll Houselander, writing in Wood of the Cradle; Wood of the Cross, years ago wrote succinctly on all of this.
I wanted to include a significant portion here as these are beautiful, precious words.
I found them compelling in forming my thoughts for this piece. I hope that you find these words compelling as well:
The infant Christ is the whole Christ. Christ was not more God, more Christ, more man, on the Cross than He was in His Mother’s womb. His first tear, His first smile, His first breath, His first pulsation in the womb of His Mother, could have redeemed the world, in fact, Christ chose the life of growth and work and suffering, and the death on the Cross which we know; but by His own choice all this was to depend on a human being giving herself to Him in His infancy, giving her own humanity to the actual making of that infant’s humanity and giving Him her life in which to rest. If every person in whom Christ lives at all, in whom He is an infant – which means anyone whose soul is alive at all – surrendered themselves to Him, resting in Him so that He might rest in them, in each one of them the world’s redemption would begin as it began in Mary, the Mother of God. Christ is formed in us, and we are formed into Christ, when we rest in Him and He rests in us.
During Advent Christ rested in Mary – still, silent, helpless, and utterly dependent. The Creator trusted Himself to His creature. He trusted to her the expression of His love, the expression of God’s love for the world and of His love of His Father, just as the work of His love would be trusted to us, in His life in us.
He was dumb; her voice was His voice.
He was still; her footsteps were His journeys.
He was blind; her eyes were His seeing.
His hands were folded; her hands did the work of His hands.
His life was her life; His heartbeat was the beating of her heart.
May you experience the blessings and the joys of Christ during this Advent season.
Houselander Quotes: airmaria.com
The C.S. Lewis Interpretation: h/t to Father Robert Barron