After years of failed attempts to make Advent meaningful, Claire McGarry comes to recognize Christ in the interruptions that derail her plans.
I envision Advent to be a time of quiet waiting—a magical reprieve from the chaos, a season of calm excitement as we await the birth of our Savior. Unfortunately, I always end up disappointed—upset that I get caught up in the scurry, frustrated that I’m inconsistent in gathering my family for daily prayer, disillusioned that my perfect plan for Advent gets derailed every. single. year.
It was in the midst of that disappointment that I read the Gospel passage about the Annunciation. That’s when God peeled back a layer of understanding that is redeeming my Advent this year.
And coming to her [Mary], he [Gabriel] said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1: 26-31)
I bet Mary had her own plan for that day. I imagine her carrying it out at the very moment Gabriel appears—unannounced and unexpected—and certainly not a line item on her agenda. Were I the one the angel appeared to the passage would read something like this:
Claire was greatly troubled at what was said. And with so much to do, she couldn’t possibly make time to ponder it. So, she thanked the angel for his visit, led him to the door, grabbed her car keys and went out to run her holiday errands. (Claire 24/7, 365)
Imagine? Imagine where we’d be if Mary were like me? If she didn’t ponder the greeting? If she didn’t stick around for the rest of the message? Thankfully that’s not the case.
Instead, Mary welcomes the angel, and she welcomes the interruption too. She stops what she’s doing, listens to Gabriel’s message, and ponders and embraces what it means. Every one of those steps helps her to clear space in her heart. That’s how Mary makes room for Jesus to be conceived in her womb.
If I could approach my Advent like Mary, I’d realize that every interruption is an opportunity to conceive Jesus in my heart. When my daughter walks in the door from school and needs to vent about her day, I need to follow Mary’s example. I need to stop what I’m doing, listen to her saga, ponder and embrace what it means, and clear space for my daughter in my heart. Doing so creates room for that deep connection of love where Jesus resides.
When a last-minute school activity lays claim to the timeslot we use for our Advent reflection, I can turn my driving time to and from the activity into a prayer—using the act of service as my offering to Him, without complaint, with right intention, aligning my heart with His so we recognize His presence in the car with us.
When a friend becomes sick, and the time we use to help her takes away from the time we light the purple Advent candles of prayer, penance, and sacrifice, our actions shine brighter than any flame can burn. They also ignite the pink candle of hope that resides within her.
One thing we know for sure is life will always interrupt our plans. When we try to hold fast to our agenda, we resent interruptions in our day, and we do everything in our power to get back to our plan.
What if this Advent we look at things through Mary’s eyes? What if we welcome each interruption and use it as a chance to seek Christ?
If your household is anything like mine, the opportunities to seek Him will abound. And perhaps, in the process, we’ll clear room enough in our hearts for Him to be born.
Copyright 2022 Claire McGarry
About the Author
Claire McGarry is the author of Grace in Tension: Discover Peace with Martha and Mary, and the Lenten family devotionals With Our Savior and Abundant Mercy. Claire is a regular contributor to Living Faith, and her freelance work has appeared in several books, magazines, and devotionals. She blogs weekly at Shifting My Perspective, and lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon.