4th Sunday of Advent
I was talking to a friend a few days ago who was sharing with me something about the emptiness that he is experiencing. Apparently, that feeling is growing as Christmas approaches. In fact, he told me, no matter how much he tries “to feel” the spirit of Christmas season, he just could not get any positive feeling. It is all that there is: emptiness.
Having shared that, he asked me a striking question: “What would be the meaning of Christmas to people, like me, who are experiencing a deep feeling of emptiness?” Ano nga naman ang magiging kahulugan at kabuluhan, kulay, at anyo ng Pasko para sa taong nakararanas ng matinding kalungkutan, pangungulila, kawalan sa buhay? Hindi ko nagawang sagutin ang katanungan niya. At sa tingin ko naman, hindi talaga kasagutan ang nais niya; kundi, kailangan lang niya ng may makikinig sa kanya. I felt that what he actually needed was the presence of someone who would simply be with him – simply listen to him and empathize with him.
Ang katanungan na hindi ko nagawang sagutin nang sandaling iyon, ang siyang nais kong pagtuunan natin ng pagninilay: What would be the meaning of Christmas to people who are experiencing a deep feeling of emptiness? Experiencing emptiness maybe due to loneliness, in spite of being surrounded by family members and friends. Or due to a lack of sense of meaning and fulfillment, in spite of having a good career or job. Or due to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or discontentment, in spite of having enough material things and possessions. Or due to depression – as a result of separation or divorce, loss or death in the family. There are many other things that could cause or trigger our experience of emptiness.
However, we must realize that emptiness is not an obstacle or hindrance to a meaningful celebration of Christmas. In fact, there is a kind of emptiness that is necessary for us to enter fully into the spirit of Christmas. And this is the important lesson that we can learn from Mary. We can even say that this is the lesson of Christmas: There must be an empty space in us where Jesus can be born. Dwell on that profound thought…
Today’s gospel reading tells us how the angel Gabriel “was sent from God… to a virgin… and the virgin’s name was Mary.” According to one gospel commentary, Mary’s virginity “is linked to emptiness.” “A flute must be empty to make space for the breath that will make music.” “A cup or chalice must be empty to make space for the wine that will be transformed into holy blood.” “A nest must be empty to make a home for new life.” Such was Mary’s emptiness and virginity. “She was a flute that the Spirit filled to make divine music.” “She was the cup empty enough to be filled with the sacrificial blood of Jesus.” “She was a nest that was hollow enough to make a home for the Baby Jesus.”
This is also the kind of emptiness that is necessary for us to experience the real meaning of Advent, the real meaning of Christmas. Paradoxically, the reason why often we experience life to be empty, is not really because life has nothing meaningful to offer us, but because our lives are too cluttered and messed up – with goods and stuffs, with possessions and belongings, with plans and projects, with desires and ambitions, with presumptions and expectations, with fears and anxieties, with attachments and addictions. How can we discover and experience Emmanuel, God who is with us in our emptiness, if we are not with him at all?
May God find an empty space in us where Jesus can be born. If we really want to experience the true meaning of Christmas, we have to empty ourselves to be able to give room to Jesus Only those who empty themselves of worldly dependencies – on material things, money matters, gains and profits – can experience how the Divine Providence works. Only those who empty themselves of preoccupations about the future – what may or may not come – can experience the loving presence of God, here and now. Only those who empty themselves of personal plans, selfish ambitions, and desires for control can experience genuine freedom by following God’s will. Only those who imitate Mary in her emptiness can carry Emmanuel and bring this Emmanuel to those who experience lives to be empty.
Having created an empty space in us for the Lord Jesus, we will discover God’s blessings in our life, and we will realize that we have much to offer.