I sent a photo this week to a friend of a place we visited sometime ago. To which I had a simple but profound reply, “Enjoy the present”. We do not live enough of the present. We regret or are haunted by our past. Then we are too anxious for our future, stress accompanying our modern lifestyle. In between those, we are lost to the present. We forget and are not present to each passing minute, each passing moment.

“‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’” (Today’s Gospel)

When Mary said this, she was not letting her past bother, or the future worry her. In this declaration, she decided on trusting his Providence and chose to always live in the present acknowledging the constant presence of God in her. Her questions about tomorrow were answered internally by her acceptance of what the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”. God acts in our present more so than we really know. Why? Because very often we are absent from the present.

We have become chronically ill. Much of this illness is self-inflicted although we can handily blame our mobile devices. We struggle to have conversations without glancing at our phones. We see groups of people, families or friends, sharing meals together. Brilliant at the start but not long after, we are multi-tasking having a conversation and eating while also being present to our phones. There are a lot of distractions these days taking us away from the present.

Then there is this incessant need of photo-taking. I know because I am like that too. Photos record the present for the future. While doing so, they also take us away from the experience of a breath-taking present. A beautiful landscape is best enjoyed by being present to it. A few minutes spent marveling creation is a good tonic to appreciate life. Then there are events, a wonderful concert or a pulsating football match, events that call out to us to live the present but instead we try to record it for the future. Simple, innocent everyday fun but they can take us far away.

But above all what matters most is our spiritual life. We stuck ourselves into the past when we harbour grudges allowing them to swell into unforgiveness causing us to bicker and fight. We are also stuck with past hurts that hardened into stones of bitterness immobilizing us to move into the present. Christmas is the coming of our Lord into our personal life. It is in the present, not the past or future, where we experience this Emmanuel, of God dwelling in our relationships: A presence that will heal us from our past.

This Christmas gift that awaits us. But we must become present to the present to enjoy this present. Like Mary it begins deep inside us to fully trust the presence of God in our daily life. Let this Christmas be that acceptance. “Be it done unto me according to thy will”. Let us embrace this healing for our past.

4th Sunday of Advent