I hate to admit it, but I cannot recall a time in recent years when I deliberately set some time aside during the Advent season to ponder its importance. I often find myself in the rush of “holiday festivities.” I think, "Who do I need to send Christmas cards to? What should I get my niece and nephews for Christmas? When are Mom and Dad arriving? Wait, what? Advent? Oh, yeah, I need to get out the wreath and candles.” I go through the motions, and life goes on.
This year, however, things seem a bit different. A few days after the feast of Christ the King, the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel resonated very powerfully in my consciousness. Those lyrics, particularly in this time of history, stirred within me a peaceful knowing that God asks to be manifest in a more meaningful way – and it took modern technology for me to see it.
This past year, I’ve had to rethink how I navigate my life and relationships. I transitioned ministries a few times, moving from in-person office space to working from home and primarily connecting with people via Zoom, phone, or email. My interaction with people in the flesh was limited to primarily my Sisters in my local community. However, in recent months, I traveled to a couple of large group assemblies. Participants at each of these gatherings convened in person for the first time in a few years. In each instance, you could see the joy of people with a common purpose coming together and learning from each other in the flesh. The deep longing to gather in community in one place together was palpable.
By no means am I downgrading video conferencing, smartphones, or email. I find them God-sends but only to a degree. The limits of a Zoom window or other forms of modern communication keep many of us from engaging in person physically. They are convenient, but can they genuinely substitute for face-to-face interaction? When meeting face-to-face, you cannot “mute” someone, “turn off their camera,” hang up, or simply ignore them. Does convenience call us beyond ourselves? Beyond our comfort zones? For some who are technically challenged, perhaps, but for this nun, I have gotten too comfortable not rubbing elbows with different people daily. I have to ask myself and invite others to ponder this, too: How have I (you) grown without regular, meaningful engagement with others? What does meaningful engagement look like? How does it feel?
Let's go back to the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel – God with us. Being connected to the world but at the same time somewhat disconnected from the world, do we sometimes forget how present God is in each person we meet and encounter? Does it make a difference when we finally meet someone we have longed to meet? For me, the answers are yes, and it makes a BIG DIFFERENCE! Hearts are connected more profoundly than before, provided I and those I meet are open to that connection.
Where there is a connection, there is God, to whom I say, “Come.”