Where do you see God?
By Bishop Brian Maas
I love Advent. I love it for the clean slate it represents as the start of the liturgical year, I love it for its theme of growing light in a time of increasing darkness, I love the memories of our children lighting Advent candles every evening while singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”—the first hymn they learned by heart—I love our scorch-scarred Advent log, with one candle for every day of Advent, I love the peace of Advent in a time of cultural commercial craziness; I even love the blue of the paraments.
This year, Advent is harder for me. My experience of the season, like everything else, is shaded, tainted, tempered by the reality of pandemic—and of the cultural divisions it only magnifies. There is less anticipation in my Advent, and more simple, ordinary waiting. The hope that always bubbles up is this year more heavily reliant on faith—on simple, stripped-down trust.
The theme for this month is “Where do you see God?” This year, most days—especially as our household’s quarantine continues—I don’t see God. But I do sense God. I sense that God is in the shadow just beyond the edge of the candle’s light, drawing me forward to what I can’t yet see, toward a promise not yet fully realized. So each day I light another candle, trusting that the growing light will eventually reveal the fulfillment of that promise.
Here is that promise as I perceive it, the possibility for which I hope: that the day is coming when the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst is recognized and embraced; that the day will not be far off when each of us is able to stop staring at the darkness between us—the darkness of our dividing differences—and can once again look at each other, and can see in each other the glow of our Creator, the one in whose image we are created, in whose creatures dwells the light of Christ.
This is what I pray for, what I hope for, what I trust God can and will someday (soon, Lord, soon!) bring to fruition. I pray not only for others, but for myself, that I too will overcome my biases, recognized and unrecognized, my quickness to judge and my slowness to forgive; that I will stop staring at the darkness that divides, at the differences I too quickly judge. I pray that we—that I—will be ever more willing to lift my eyes from the separating shadows to look for, to look at, the light of Christ in everyone. Focused on that, I can step into and through my fear of the dark and connect even with those with whom I disagree.
Where do I see God? I see God in the dark, holding a promise. I hear God in the dark, inviting me to join him there. I sense God in the dark, waiting to accompany me in my fear.
And in wavering hope, in simple faith, in stripped-down trust, I light another candle and pray for the will to respond.