It’s the Christmas season, when Christians celebrate Advent: the coming.
In the Christian faith, the Christmas message is the Good News that God infiltrated the human race, in the form of the Bethlehem baby.
The apostle John tells us God “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14 The Message)
Emmanuel – God with us.
Incarnation – God as one of us.
No one could imagine that our Creator would take the form of a helpless infant.
No one would expect Him to be born in such lowliness as to be ignored.
Note: For my non-religious friends, this one is a bit steeped in the concepts of my faith. But hey, it’s Christmas. Please allow me some latitude.
It was unique.
It was extraordinary.
It was miraculous.
It was personal.
But most of all, it was unexpected.
We would never have known, had it not been for the herald of the angels!
God took this step to show us the magnitude of divine love and to demonstrate a desire for personal relationship with us.
But that message is not limited to Christmas: God continues to show up in places we don’t expect.
Even in...my cancer!
To be clear, I don’t think my cancer was designed by God to "get my attention" or humble me.
Nonetheless, it has been humbling, dealing with a body that seem intent on rebellion and having to be so dependent on others.
I don’t see myself as separated from God or abandoned by God, so I don’t think I got cancer to “bring me back” or lead me to “repentance.” However, living with this disease has turned my attention to God, even more than was part of my normal routine.
Personal Note: I certainly don't think God "gave me" cancer as some sort of retribution or divine punishment for my actions, attitudes, behavior or (especially) my "sins." That kind of God is not part of my faith...at all! For me, that violates everything inherent in the idea of "Jesus paid it all!"
I'm not denying the reality of cause-and-effect or consequences in this context. (i.e., some of our actions are known to be harmful: breathing asbestos, smoking, etc.) However, I merely refuse to blame God! While I'm sure my diagnosis came as no surprise to God, I will also avoid all theological discussion at this point on providence, predestination and/or divine permission.
And while, as I mentioned in a previous article, I am not thankful for the disease, I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m bitter. I can honestly say that I’ve never asked “Why me?” or expressed anger at God for this disease.
It's not my belief that my diagnosis was God’s attempt to teach me something, but I have learned some powerful, life-changing, eternal lessons—about myself, about others, and about God. And surprisingly, about the message of Christmas. At this time of year, in the midst of living with cancer, I'm reminded of the wondrous reality of the Advent: God surprises with unexpected visits.
Scripture uses the term “the fullness of time” (cf: Galatians 4:4) when talking about the coming of Jesus, and it’s often paraphrased to mean “at the right time.”
That’s been my experience in the past years. God shows up…at the right time!
And generally, unexpectedly and in unexpected ways.
Whenever I’ve had to sort through massive amounts of confusing information to make life-altering decisions, I’ve heard that “still, small voice” prompting me, parting the clouds of confusion and bringing a calming peace.
When dark emotions reflect the sickness in my body, I’ve encountered unforeseen joy.
In the midst of mind-numbing nausea, there has always been a subtle spark of hope.
There have been times when I wasn’t sure I could get out of bed, but the strength came, and I believe it was from a Source beyond my own.
In that “little town of Bethlehem,” God showed up in human form. I’ve seen that as well. I am constantly encouraged by the support of those around me. Particularly and especially my husband—loving and longsuffering in every sense of the word. If this ordeal has taught me anything (more precisely, confirmed to me), he is a Gift from God.
I joke about the silly stuff, and even ridicule the absurd things people do and say, but I never want to convey that as the norm. There are people who write to me, or call me…and they comfort me at precisely the right moment. They aren’t the ones who come with “a word from God” of how I got the disease, or tell me what I should do or eat (and not eat). When they speak (or write), I hear the very heart of God in their kind and thoughtful words.
So, while I would not have chosen this journey (Who would?), I wouldn't take anything for the gifts I’ve received along the way.
Throughout the ordeal, I’ve lived in God’s Presence.
Yes, I know it sounds metaphysical (It is, actually!), but I make no apology. No matter what's happening, or will happen down the road, I have an assurance that I am not alone in this battle. I’ve living in the reality of Advent: God with me.
I don’t enjoy the experience, but I have no fear.
And that’s part of the message of Christmas: Fear not!
For me, that’s divine.
Note: Portions of this post were originally published on a previous blog; it has been revised and updated for this entry.