‘Stephen called out "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."’ – Acts 7:59
I am often torn around the Christmas holidays. On the one hand, I experience much jubilant joy and cheerful spirit among people. On the other, I also go through difficult moments of loneliness, loss, and sadness. I am not alone on this predicament. The holidays allows many of us to be in touch with the loss of loved ones recently deceased, the pain of family members seriously sick, the weight of financial worries, the separation of close relationships and the awkwardness of strained ones. While we celebrate God already-with-us, we also become more aware that God seems not-yet-with-us. On Christmas Day yesterday, a series of deadly bombing rocked the capital of Nigeria while the Pope urged for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
The readings around Christmas point to this already-here but not-yet coming of God. In two days, we celebrate the feast of innocent children massacred because Herod wanted to kill the infant Jesus. Today, we remember Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The promise in the crib and the sacrifice on the cross are closely intertwined. Love has a price tag. God in Jesus came as a baby born in a and died as a criminal on the cross, loving consistently. God is not ashamed of human lowliness or messiness, she entered into it. Moreover, God often comes as an unexpected, uninvited, often unrecognized guest. We are not always ready for this coming; yet we can be receptive and allow it to dawn within us. A friend recently shared that our hope lies not in something, not in some belief or idea, but in someone. In someone who often surprises us, entering our brokenness and magnifying our joy, desiring to stay, whispering peace, “I am here.”
While we cannot always be ready for this, we can be receptive.
Let’s continue to ask for the grace to be receptive. Allow God to surprise us through difficult as well as positive moments and feelings throughout these festive days.