Pay Attention. Fasten Your Seatbelt.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). —Matthew 1:23
Most of us believe rather easily in a God that is utterly other; the Creator, beginning and end of all things—as big and unfathomable as the universe. But a loving God, eternally concerned with the welfare of creation and each human being—including me and you—is much harder to understand and accept.
Unless we experience it.
For me—and perhaps for you—having experiences of a surprising, loving God in my life, or seeing signs of a loving God in the world and in the lives of others, is ephemeral and hard to hold on to. I forget—or explain them away.
Advent is a good time to remind ourselves of those experiences in the light of our Creator’s most surprising and unbelievably loving act: becoming one of us in a specific time and place and showing us—making possible—a radically different world and way to live.
How can we keep forgetting whose we are and what our purpose is? We all carry God’s imprint on our souls, and the universe of matter and spirit oozes God. We also have Christ’s example and words that the coming kingdom for which we work will be one of justice, love, and peace. It seems the only thing missing is our willingness to see this and then to act in concert with God’s purpose.
In other words, the power of God’s love that redeems and recreates you, me, and eventually all of creation can be a daily reality in our lives—if we pay attention.
God has gotten my attention sometimes in amusing ways: Living and working in West Africa as World Renew’s (then CRWRC’s) regional director during the bloody and violent early 1990s was often demoralizing and lonely. But I was frequently reminded of God’s presence and my proper role as I boarded the regular Ghana Airways flight from Dakar, Senegal, to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and heard: “This is Captain Immanuel. We’re headed to Banjul, Conakry, Freetown, and Accra today. Please fasten your seatbelt and get ready for takeoff.”
Pay attention. Fasten your seatbelt. God is with us!
Creator God, thank you for becoming one of us. Give us the experience of your love today so that we may smilingly continue our work with you—in our time and in this place—toward your peaceful kingdom of love and justice.
Peter Vander Meulen is the recently retired coordinator of the CRC Office of Social Justice, in which he served for over 20 years. Before that, Peter lived and worked in Latin America, Bangladesh, and West Africa for World Renew (previously CRWRC). He is married and has three grown children. Peter is active in several justice and peace projects in Africa and Asia.