The Mystery of Advent: Warmth of Divine Love

Reflections from Dr. Howell

The mystery of Advent and Christmas might best be understood as the question asked and answered by Walter Kasper, the great German theologian and friend of Pope Francis: “Why did God become a human being? God wanted to show both who he is and who we are. God wanted to bring the warmth of divine love into our world that had turned tired and cold.”

We do not really know the date of Jesus’ birth. He might have come in the summer, or as flowers bloomed in the Spring, or as leaves fell in Fall. I try to recall that December isn’t chilly for everybody, realizing Jesus’ followers live in tropical climates, and the Southern Hemisphere! And yet I find deep personal and theological meaning in the way we mark his birth in the frozen cold of winter. Hearts get cold. The world can be a chill wind. Frost hardens things.

We even have the curious use of the word “cool.” It could indicate a situation needed some heat. But it’s also “cool,” as in hip, stylish, popular, trendy. Nothing bad about being cool (not speaking now, of course, from personal experience!) – but Jesus wasn’t the coolest guy ever, showing us how to be cool. He came, evidently, to befriend the un-cool, the people others made fun of or left out. Jesus is unimpressed by style, or popularity, or the latest.

I laugh out loud at the moment in the movie “Juno” when Juno tells Paulie she loves him. “You’re like the coolest person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try.” He responds, “I try really hard, actually.” Jesus sees us trying to be cool. He embraces us and says “I love you. You don’t have to try.”

Into the cold, cool place, Jesus came, God’s light and warmth. I even am fond of the placement of his birth just a couple of days after the winter solstice, the “longest night.” Jesus came when and where there wasn’t much light at all. But then turn had just come. The days were just now getting longer. More light, a quicker dawn, a warmer day.

I love Rembrandt’s painting, “The Adoration of the Shepherds.” I’ve always framed it in my mind as Jesus in the manger being like a lantern, beaming light to the faces of everyone else gathered around. Today I am envisioning him as a little fire, radiating not just light but also warmth, in the cold. Nobody had HVAC or space heaters back in Bible times. Jesus was the warmth of divine love.

Are you tired? Cold? Cool? God is warming you, and the world, with the warmth of the divine love. Feel it. Know it. Trust it.