We sat down as a family and reflected on Advent Stations found in the current copy of Magnificat Advent Companion. I’d love to paint a picture of a scene out of a Hallmark movie, but that’s not how things go around here. One child was blowing his nose on a floor pillow, insisting that he doesn’t need a tissue!! One was trying in vain to retrieve the family rabbit from the hutch, who sometimes joins us for evening prayer. The youngest one was wrapped up like a cocoon in a mustard-yellow throw on the ground.
Anyway, we got through the first paragraph of the Advent reflection and this hit home: “But God writes straight with crooked lines: ‘O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!’”
I sat there silently for a moment and said, “Let’s think about that. If Adam and Eve had never sinned, we would have never had a Jesus. Never! No Christmas, ever.” All three kids looked up and stared at me. That got their attention. No Jesus? No Christmas? The very notion seems impossible. Yet, sin is what made is both necessary and possible. Of course, we should never downplay the evil of sin, but we should always rejoice with those who overcome sin and choose God, sometimes at great personal pain and sacrifice.
Tonight, my oldest son went to enjoy a birthday dinner with his birthfather. The adoption worker praised his birthparents for supporting each other through such a difficult ordeal, when he was born, and for not choosing abortion. His birthfather quietly responded, “Don’t believe in that.” For 19 years, that man has remained quietly in the background, never intruding on his son’s life, and being available only upon request. That takes a lot of love and sacrifice, especially in a culture where other young men abandon their pregnant girlfriends or encourage abortion.
For those who are unaware, today’s open adoptions involved sending letters and pictures to biological parents throughout the years so they know the child they lovingly “gave up” for a different kind of life is loved and happy. It’s painful all around: hard for adoptive parents to send those photos and hard for birthparents to receive those photos. Most have no idea just how complicated and messy adoption is.
This young man became a father at the age of 20, had dropped out of college and was struggling. Yet he loved this unborn boy enough to be there when it counted. Then he quietly remained in the background until his son was ready to reconnect on his own terms. What a blessing that has been for all of us. That man chose to give the gift of life and a child to a family. We chose to accept that child. Now, in some ways, we are all family. Our son goes to their Thanksgiving dinners and comes home to ours with leftovers and it’s all quite miraculous. We also pray for each other.
Do I believe there is a place in heaven for this selfless young man who hasn’t made his way back to the Church just yet? I’d be willing to bet on it. I believe the birth, adoption, and reunification with his son was a part of his salvation plan from day one. That is how our God of Surprises works.
Salvation is individual with infinitesimal facets and with the limited information we have. None of us is ever really qualified to judge the heart or salvation status of another, nor are we qualified to judge the ways of the Lord’s judgment. As Mother Theresa said, “He knows what he is about.” Advent is the season of surprises.
The Omnipotence and Omniscience of God
We saw the new Disney movie “Wish” this weekend; I had no idea what to expect. In recent years Disney has taken criticism from multiple angles. Honestly, all my kids ever get out of the movies are the fun songs and some of the main themes. There is much worse stuff on YouTube.
The beginning of the movie was fascinating: King Magnifico studied sorcery and set up a kingdom called Rosas on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. He then developed the gift of being able to grant any wish his subjects desire. They present their wishes to the king to be sealed and protected until he can grant them. Each month during a special ceremony, Magnifico grants one special wish for a subject. Then, they all go back to waiting.
Enter young Asha, a teenage girl with a dream in her heart and a desire to make things happy for her grandfather whose wish was never granted! She applies to be the king’s apprentice, hoping to convince him to grant the wish of her grandfather. He just longs to make music and leave behind a legacy for his family.
As she makes her request, however, King Magnifico explains that he simply cannot grant all the wishes made. There are too many factors to weigh, that he has information she does not and power she does not.
The film dissipates into various themes I won’t go into from there, but I was immediately struck with the attitude of the teen (“This isn’t fair! I’ll take matters into my own hands!” and the elderly grandfather, “Accept the authority of the king! He knows best!”) and just how eerily familiar it all is, both in our current secular culture and in the Church.
I reflected upon how often God weeps when He does not grant the prayers (wishes) we think will make us happy, knowing they will cause heartache or the loss of salvation in ways we cannot foresee in our mortal ways. How it must hurt Him when we question His all-seeing goodness! Yet, we do it every day.
I sat there for a moment and thanked God for the prayers He has never answered in my life: those desperate prayers for pregnancy early in my marriage. Looking at my three youngest sitting next to me in the theater and thinking, “If that wish (prayer) had been granted, those three wouldn’t be here. I can’t imagine. They are my world.” My youngest came and snuggled in my lap (she doesn’t leave me for long–ever) and said, “You’re the best mom ever,” (she says this about fifty times daily) and I thanked God again. I love them, they love me. One day, they will want to meet their birthmoms and I get that; it’s all okay. They were meant for me and I for them and we all just fit together.
God knows all, He truly does. If He granted each and every one of our wishes and prayers, what an absolute mess this world would be. Advent is a time to reflect above all on how much He really does love us. He gave us His only child! From a woman who has been entrusted with four children born to other women–– good heavens. This is a lot to bear. He gave me His Son, He gave you His Son. This is Christmas.
The year my Uncle Joe was dying (around 2006) from the same disease that claimed the life of my father (pulmonary fibrosis), he put his Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. I think he knew he didn’t have much time left. He fought bravely against the disease that had taken his father and his older brother (my dad) and he wanted to enjoy one last Christmas before he left this earth. I remember seeing him sitting in his living room reading his Bible in front of that tree. He took his Advent a little early that year.
Uncle Joe died the day after Thanksgiving. To those who bemoan early celebrations of Christmas, I say bah humbug! I’m glad he enjoyed that tree one last time. Growing up the son of a poor farmer, Christmas celebrations were scant when he was a child, and he finally had a decadent tree he was proud of as an adult.
Like my father, Joe never complained about his illness. At his funeral, the priest read a letter Joe had written to God–– a thank you letter for his life and his many blessings. It was both humbling and inspirational. Uncle Joe trusted the Lord, and he embraced his cross and went joyfully to his death. He knew very well that he was not in control. I admire him deeply.
As always, at the end of the year I do a quick review and it’s all fairly familiar: new babies have come, people have lost loved ones, some families have reconciled, others continue in estrangement, some come back to Church, others seem further away than ever. None of this is a surprise to Jesus. He knows all, He loves us in spite of our failures, and He never ceases being our Hound of Heaven, luring us back to the Father with His love and patience. It seems easier, somehow, during Advent to feel Him near because people are ready to celebrate, ready to be loving and kind, ready to be giving.
Each year, at the end of the preparation and exhaustion of the Advent season, I sit in front of my favorite Nativity scene on Christmas Eve and take it all in and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus. We still need You. Every day, in every hour.”
Happy Advent, friends. Let us pray for each other, reach out to the hurting, support the grieving, rejoice with the joyful, and comfort the abandoned. Jesus is coming, thanks be to God! Because I don’t know about the rest of you, but as for me and my house we need His help on the daily.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Advent_wreath_with_violet_and_rose_candles_1.jpg
Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky. As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries. She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.