In these ‘at the touch of a button’ days, when we can call up whole worlds on the internet with one touch of a finger, we would like to command our happiness with similar ease; it should be instant and total.
The illusion that we can do this is common enough as we see all around us: “Eat me,” “Drink me,” “Wear me,” “Drive me,” and you’ll be happy forever. Buy now, pay later and you won’t be deprived of the immediate gratifi cation that you, special you, so richly deserve.
What is intolerable is that we should have to wait for anything. In this impatient age the man or woman who builds a faster car, a speedier program or a so-called instant meal is on to a winner. But, as the posters shout out to us, speed really does kill and not just on the roads. When we can no longer live comfortably with the sense that things take time, that growth needs time to develop and mature, our restless spirit becomes small and shriveled. Our nets remain empty as the happiness we are trying to catch continues to elude us.
“That he will come is as certain as the dawn.” Hosea 6:3
If there is one thing that emerges clearly throughout the Bible, it is the art of waiting. Again and again the prophets proclaimed that happiness was on its way and was not yet there. They urged the people to “wait patiently” for God to save them, never to give up hope, but to believe in the promises of a faithful God. However great their troubles, they must never lose heart. “That he will come is as certain as the dawn” (Hosea 6:3). And, always, those who believed in the promises held fast and kept the vision alive.
At the time of Jesus’ birth we meet a number of these people whose hearts have been honed and readied, whose faith is unwavering as they waited “for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2). They are small, fervent and poor, unremarkable in the society but beacons of light to those who believed. Zechariah the priest and Elizabeth, his wife, whose delight in her own good news gave way to joy at her young cousin’s pregnancy; old, faithful Anna, and Simeon who rejoiced that “My eyes have seen your salvation;” Joseph and his wife Mary whose acceptance of the happenings they could not fully understand, unlocked the door for all of us. Their readiness and openness to mystery is the work of time and patience. Centuries before the prophet Habakkuk had written, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfi llment and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3).
“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it.” Habakkuk 2:3
Now, at last, the time had come, the vision was being realized, the waiting was at an end and so Simeon, recognizing the infant in Mary’s arms could pray, “Now Lord, you may let your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation…” (Luke 2:29). To the old man was given the answer to the longings of the ages. In the tiny bundle in Mary’s arms, he saw the fulfi llment of all his hopes and the hopes of his people.
Christmas calls us to this recognition, calls us to really see the infant Mary holds. For this we need time, not so much to take it as though we were snatching it from our hectic days, but rather to give it, graciously, lovingly and with longing, to the Lord of all our days. No instant results, no touch of a button immediate elation but surely, if we are true, a peace filling our hearts gently, quietly, telling us that we are welcome, that there is space for us with Mary and Joseph and with all who throughout the ages recognized the Child, the Son of God and knelt to adore Him in silence. And, almost without knowing it, we are happy.
Sr. Redempta Twomey is the assistant editor of The Far East and lives and works in Ireland.