If I were to decide how the circumstances that surround my spiritual life would unfold, things would go very different. I would enter into prayer and the sacraments well rested and with plenty of time of preparation. I would approach prayer at a point in which everything was done, and thus there would be no concerns that would keep me from being attentive to the Lord. However, that is rarely how things actually happen.
A good pattern of how Jesus appears in our life is how Christmas arrives each year. For me and for many people, Christmas always seems to arrive in the midst of business. Whether it is good or bad, there are always things to be done and anxieties that seem to rob us of really resting in the holiday. When I was younger, I thought to myself that this was something that could be avoided, something that needed to be changed. What I now consider is that perhaps this is really a part of the plan.
If we look at the first Christmas, the same dynamic was in place. Nothing happened without stress and anxiety. Jesus came into the world at a time when Joseph and Mary certainly had distinct challenges and sources of stress. He came at a time when Israel was occupied by a foreign power, and he came in the middle of night. He did not arrive during regular business hours or when it was most convenient. The situation was not ideal, at least by human standards.
But God does not operate by human standards.
The real source of our on-going conversion is that we need to stop judging things according to our limited perceptions. Rather, we need to put on the mind of Christ. Instead of trying to get reality to conform to our expectations, we need to learn to surrender to God in the midst of busyness. This year Christmas comes the way it always comes. God arrives in the midst of sin and confusion, and when we are open to this encounter through faith, hope, and love, he gives us his grace and peace exactly where we are at.
I pray that you invite Christ to be born in your heart this Christmas. May his arrival bring you the fruit of the Holy Spirit; the gentleness, love, meekness, and humility which are the marks of Christian transformation.