Christmas, an overshadowing by God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Fifth Day of Christmas Novena, 20 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022.

I have stopped listening to Christmas carols and music long before the COVID-19 pandemic came. During that time, especially with the sudden spread of Christmas countdowns and early playing of Christmas music, I felt it as the high point of commercialization and trivialization of this blessed celebration.

But when the pandemic came in 2020, I began appreciating Christmas carols again as I longed for something to cheer me up on those days of lockdown. Unfortunately, I never had the time to make a Christmas playlist that as I drive to my Simbang Gabi Masses since last week, I have never sang nor hummed Christmas carols. All I have in my car stereo are my secular music playlist that surprisingly conveyed the Christmas messages of love and faith, family and friends, life and death.

That is the power of music which transcends seasons and celebrations like this old favorite by Don McLean, the Birthday Song which is about his intense experience of love with a lost loved one.

You see I love the way you love me
I love the way you smile at me
I love the way we live this life we're in...
I don't believe in magic but I do believe in you
And when you say you believe in me
There's so much magic I can do

Okay. Call me cheesy. And old.

But what McLean sings is very true. It is like Christmas with its “magical” powers and beauty! What I mean here in the word “magical” to describe Christmas is the sense that it is indeed an event, a reality that happened and continues to happen among us only if we allow the Divine power of God to overshadow us.

If you try to listen to this song, it speaks of an intense love relationship that not even death could separate. McLean claims in his song that his experience was too deep for words. Difficult to express.

Like in the experience of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother.

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

Luke’s choice of the word “overshadowing” evokes a strong sense of power from God, of his personal intervention into humanity. The eternal God entering the temporal. It is something so powerful to show that contrary to usual human thought that God remains in the spiritual realm, here Luke shows us that God is God indeed – omnipotent, all powerful!

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) said there are two moments in the life of Jesus that God intervenes directly in the material world: his virginal birth and his resurrection in which Jesus saw no corruption at all. These are totally unacceptable to modern minds because they believe God is concerned only with spiritual things, that God acts only in the spiritual world, not in the material world.

Such kind of thinking is so prevalent among many people these days, and, unfortunately, even among those who profess to believe in God!

When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, it meant God personally acting in her, coming to her which she totally welcomed with her fiat.

Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

To be overshadowed by God the Most High means a deep intense presence of the Holy One which is a favorite theme of Luke especially in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit acting and moving through the apostles that made Jesus so present even if he had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, to overshadowed by God is also deep and transforming divine presence in Mary wherein in her cooperation, the entire human history was radically altered which until now is felt worldwide with our celebration of Christmas itself which the world unfortunately tries to relegate to mere holiday by removing Christ himself.

Unlike in the case of the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah yesterday, Mary is here presented as totally absorbed with the event, with her conversation with the angel, God’s messenger. She was totally aware of everything, very present before God, sincere and true. Recall that Zechariah angered the angel yesterday because he challenged God – who else could convince him of the good news if he still refused to believe God had answered their prayers with the angel already in front of him?

Worst was King Ahaz in the first reading who entered into alliance with neighboring kingdoms of Israel while at the same time signing a secret pact with their common enemy, Assyria just to be sure they would not be invaded and conquered. That angered God and eventually led to Israel’s downfall.

But that did not stop God in involving himself with us and human history with Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah or Emmanuel, Jesus Christ who is the God-with-us.

When Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz about “the child to be born by a virgin”, it was not just meant for the people of Israel at that time about 700 years before Christ’s coming but also for all of us in this time. Isaiah’s prophecy was for all of us to realize that indeed, God had already come, the Virgin had given birth to the Messiah that began the personal entry of God into us, his direct involvement in our lives so that it would finally lead us to fulfillment in him.

This prophecy that had been fulfilled in Jesus through Mary should convince us once and for all that God is true and truly among us.

Like Mary, are we personally engaging with God in Jesus, through Jesus?

If we can just create that sacred space within us to allow Jesus be born right in our hearts, to speak his words of love and belief in us, we could do so many great things like Mary in this world. Or, like Don McLean in his song. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me feel your presence in me
like Mary your Mother;
let me believe in your presence,
let me listen to your voice,
to your affirmations
so that I may start living in you,
in your presence,
in your love,
in your kindness.
May I be a sign of your
intense presence in this world
that have relegated you in the clouds
and world of ideas and spirits;
let me be a sign of your transforming presence
in this world that badly needs
healing and mercy,
forgiveness and kindness,
comfort and consolation
amid the many confusions
that keep us all apart from one another
and from you, our Lord and God,
our grounding and destiny.
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s