“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.” – Ezekiel 36:24
Almost 500 years ago today, a man named Juan Diego was walking on a hill just outside a young Mexico City, when he was stopped by the apparition of a young woman. She was, she told him, the mother of God, the Virgin Mary. All the stories of this God he’d heard to that point had been on the lips of the Spanish-speaking newcomers, by whom he had been baptized a few years previously, so he was shocked to hear her tell him this in his own native language. He wasn’t shocked, however, when the Spanish bishop didn’t believe him. The bishop asked him to ask for a sign, and she obliged: she told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of the hill, where no flowers would normally have grown. When he got there, he found it covered with Spanish roses not native to Mexico. He picked them, she arranged them in his cloak, and when he brought the bundle to the bishop and opened it, the flowers fell out, leaving behind one of the most important religious images the world has ever known: the Virgin of Guadalupe.
God promises to take us from the nations and bring us into our own land. But that can only happen if God visits us in our nation, in our home, first. This is the miracle we wait for at Advent: God does not wait in a far place for us to come to God. God comes close, to the place where we are. And when God shows up, God comes not speaking the language of the Conquerors, but with our own native language on God’s lips.
If you’re looking for God, look to the stars and to ancient texts, yes, but also look nearby: the hill just outside of town, the barn out back, the other room. God’s plan is to establish you in glory . . . but God will meet you where you are, first.
O God, come to me here, in this regular old place. Bring to me the scent of flowers from far lands, and impress your image on my heart.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.