This post appeared in the December 20, 2020, bulletins for St. Michael and St. Albert parishes.
In my newspaper days, I had the opportunity to profile an inventor, a young man who had created and patented a few small, practical products and was hustling every day to market them to retailers and the public. He proved to be focused, driven and wise beyond his years.
Not long after I wrote about him, I introduced him to another aspiring inventor I knew. The more accomplished man shared all he could about creating a prototype to prove your concept, pursuing a patent and more. Then he took a long look at the younger man and said something like this: “Sometimes a person with an idea gets to this point and stops, because it’s more comforting to have an idea in your back pocket than to try it and learn it doesn’t work or won’t sell. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to say, ‘I can always do that’ than to have nothing to fall back on.”
I was thinking about this advice while reflecting on the readings from Isaiah this Advent. The prophet is reassuring the people of Israel that their God has a plan for them and the power to bring it to fruition. His people have heard this message before, including from Moses, who led them from slavery in Egypt to wander the deserts for 40 years.
Never mind that the people themselves—in their fickleness and unbelief—were the cause of their wandering and distress: The road wasn’t easy, and some regretted even setting out. They preferred freedom as a dream of the future than a laborious reality. And the fact that God had a plan for their good and the power to carry out seemed to matter little compared to the daily challenges of their journey with Him.
Indeed, knowing that God has the power to do what He plans can even be an obstacle to us. If we trust His love, we might surrender to His plan, but if we have even a twinge of doubt about His motives, we might fear His power and avoid His plan, His guidance, His love.
This is the seed of doubt the serpent planted in Eve—that the God she initially regarded as a loving Creator might in fact be a jealous tyrant who seeks only to keep us in our place.
Praise God, it isn’t true. The birth of Jesus reveals the reality of a God who loves us completely, impractically, extravagantly. If the burden of this life is truly too much to bear, why would He join us in the struggle? Why would He endure the worst of it and return in glory, if not to give us hope and regain our trust? Why would He promise to ever come back?
Divine Infant, Crucified Savior, King of the Universe, we trust in you, this Advent, this Christmas, and always.