Monday, November 25, 2013

The hiddenness of God's is ours too

I was listening passively to the radio a few days ago. The morning show was on, where most of the time the DJs talk about random topics just to ensure that there’s no ‘white noise’.  The topic of the moment was how to hide your Christmas presents from your children and loved ones.  There seems to be a need, apparently, for many people to not let the recipients of their Christmas presents know what they are going to get, and not to even let them see the actual wrapped gift.  I suppose for many people, that’s the ‘thrill’ of Christmas morning. 

I brought that thought further and somehow, it revealed something to me about the true nature of God and how he manifests himself in our lives.  Was not the first Christmas also very much a surprise?  Apart from the Holy Family and their close relatives, no one knew who or what this infant that Mary was carrying in her was going to be.  There was a hiddenness about the incredible plan of God in Jesus Christ.  The revelation of salvation in Christ was to be unfolded slowly, and it did not allow for anything hurried, rushed or premature. 

Our sinful and weak human nature, however, trends to the opposite.  The more advances we seem to make through technology and science, the shorter span of tolerance we have for patience and mystery and God’s hiddenness.  We want our things yesterday.  Just looking at the superficial way that so many Christians celebrate Christmas itself reveals an impatience and a great desire to reach the destination before the journey even starts.  It is only November and already Christmas decorations are up in full glory in the malls and streets.  People are already having Christmas parties at homes and in the office.  Granted, that is the vulgar side of commercialization, but aren’t so many Christians who are well catechized, who are aware of the period of Advent, which is a period of waiting, of preparation, of anticipation, also sucked up into this ‘dis-ease’?  Sure, it is going to be so difficult to change this, but if you are a leader of a Church group, a boss in the company, someone who is a decision-maker for such organised activities,  perhaps you can introduce a new (and proper) way to celebrate Christmas by having Christmas parties during the actually Christmas season (after Dec 25).  Would not that be an excellent moment of evangelisation where you take time to explain to a non-Christian how Advent leads to Christmas?  Perhaps we are not seizing these precious moments enough in our lives, and we find ourselves giving all sorts of justifiable excuses to refrain from speaking about our faith.  Maybe you can start by sharing your own experiences of the need to learn to wait, and one reason is because God often likes to take things slow.
Yes, God reveals slowly, and sometimes painfully so.  That is why the Church has Liturgical seasons to mirror life, so that we can relate this to our own lives in a very real way.  If one really thinks about it,  the celebration of the Sacraments are indeed a slow revelation of God’s plan for each one of us.  Each time we participate actively at the Eucharist, when we make that intrinsic connection with God in such a real way, he reveals a little more of his love for us.  Each time we truly enter into the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we touch a little more the tenderness of the one who is mercy himself.  The same goes for the when one is infirm and receives an anointing.  It’s never going to be a full and final encounter while we are still here on earth.  It’s a slow revelation because it is a revelation of love.  I am certain that married couples who are deeply in love know this.  They want to show just how deeply they love one another but they also do know that there is a limit of their ability to show this in any outward way.  So they try over and over in creative ways that hopefully say what is in their hearts and minds.  Woe be the day that they give up and take one another for granted.  The mystery is lost, and the hiddenness is given up. 

It may be easier for me to reflect and live out this hiddenness of life simply because I am physically hidden from the public in my convalescing at home for a year.  Imagine if I celebrated that I am cancer-free (for the moment) before I get news from the doctor, or before I even started that long journey through the many chemotherapy and radiation treatments!  It would have been totally premature and inappropriate, no matter how much faith I have.  

What is there to reflect and ponder at Advent for you?  Plenty.  You know you’d be fudging the truth if you say that there is nothing that you are anticipating in life, waiting for, hoping for, longing for and having some desire for.  Perhaps it is a doctor’s report, a response from a loved one, a change or conversion in either yourself or someone dear to you, a result, a job application, etc.  We can use this time of Advent to enter into that waiting as the Church waits for Christmas in the Advent period.  When we do this, our Sunday celebrations at Mass will be so much more connected with our daily living, and you will live and pray differently.

Christians who are reading this week’s reflection - perhaps you may want to really think about truly celebrating Christmas in a way that allows you to enter into that hiddenness that mirrors or imitates God’s in some way.  Observe Advent.  Fight that temptation to doll up your homes for Christmas before Christmas.  Instead of Christmas decorations, put up something purple instead, get an Advent wreath, and only begin to let Christmas come into your lives at Christmas and into the Christmas season.  Who knows?  If this is the first time you put yourself through this experience and ‘inconvenience’, you may just see a great change in the way that you and God meet at Christmas when Christmas truly arrives.

Then, at Christmas, you will not be like the millions who are already jaded of everything related to Christmas before the event itself and don't want to hear another Christmas carol, taste another Christmas cake, attend another party or rush to take down those month-old Christmas decorations on Dec 26.  This will help us to truly enter into that hiddenness that God is so familiar with, and we will truly celebrate Christmas for the Christmas season, from 25 Dec right up till the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  

May this week be a spiritual anticipation for the holy and hopeful season of Advent for all of you. 

Post Scriptum:  I wish to thank each of my kind readers for responding so positively to writing some comment to my blog post two weeks ago as a form of thanksgiving to God for the good news my doctor brought about not having found further Leukemia cells in my body.  There were 99 such responses!  I am so grateful for all your prayers.  May your efforts be a visible sign to others about the goodness and love of God.  God love you.


  1. Dear Fr. Luke,

    The one word in your blog that stands out for me is "jaded." Yes, if I were to (attempt to) describe the malaise affecting so many people today it would be just that word - jaded. No sense of wonder, no delight in much of anything. It's always, "Been there, done that." What a dreary existence!

    I contend that most of the vivid colours in life have been replaced by the dull greys of relativism and pragmatism. Even when considering the food we eat, or our married lives for example: how many of us really, really appreciate the simplest meals put before us, or for that matter, give thanks for the blessing that is our spouse? Or have both become so mundane, everything so routine that it all goes unnoticed?

    Christmas is a lot like that. Something wonderful right before our eyes, yet largely unnoticed. One might say it is the hideous commercialisation (ugh!) of Christmas that is to blame. That is partly true but then, if we've already been celebrating all year 'round in the first place then where is the special-ness of Christmas? Hopefully, we will use the season of Advent to do a little soul-searching (pun intended) and then our Christmas greeting will really mean something besides, "Been there, done that."
    God bless.

  2. We've already set up and decorated our Christmas Tree before reading this blog entry. So this time, it'll be twinkling reminder to us to welcome God through Christ unconditionally into our home and life. Whatever comes, we pray we'll have the faith to take in on positively and together. Ignatius & Florence

  3. Dear Fr Luke, celebrating the season of Christmas after Christmas Day, rather than before Christmas Day, makes sense to me. Everything has its due time & season. A pregnant woman may be eager to see her unborn child & can't wait to hold her baby in her arms earlier. Yet she may not be happy if the baby really arrives prematurely & needs medical care. A young couple may think it's ok to have premarital sex since they are so much in love. But they totally miss the point of sex being total self-giving within marriage, and hence miss out the anticipation & poignancy of consummation had they waited till they were married before the witness of God & the community.

    Waiting patiently for anticipated events, waiting for slowpokes, waiting for myself & others to grow, waiting on the Lord. None of these are intuitive for me. But I've learnt that all of waiting can be transformed into a waiting on the Lord. I try to look to Him & wait for His word, to receive my next marching orders, cos without Him, I labour in vain.

    Last year for Advent, I fasted from buying & eating my favourite fruit cake. On 26 december, I finally went out to buy a fruit cake & found that it was on 50% discount... one of the fringe benefits of being counter-cultural. Happy Advent!

  4. Dear Fr Luke, to celebrate our faith is a community understand our faith is a very personal experience.....we cannot go around reinventing the wheel but we can show our understanding of our faith by the way we live and share our blessings....somehow, the spirit of Christmas do keep us more calm, peaceful and contended.....we should reflect on ehy this is so......God bless.

    P/s. We did not see Tessa's thanksgiving.....apologies, but I do enjoy how she expresses herself so well what we most of us wish her well. Mat.

  5. We are waiting for the little angel for another 8 months! Thanks so much, father, for the writing. It is such a beautiful reminder.