When my grandmother pass away last year I thought a lot about the times I shared with her, one memory in particular kept tugging at my heart. Small in stature, with a fire in her eyes, this Irish-Catholic woman, was relentless when she was passionate about something. As one of her grandchildren I had the privilege of being one of the things in life that she was passionate about. However, I didn’t always see the way she expressed that passion as a privilege.
One of the ways that my grandmother would bestow her passion on us kids was with a kiss. Sounds harmless enough, but her kisses horrified me from a young age. It wasn’t until age five that I finally couldn’t take the cold clammy cheeks that resulted from her sloppy kisses and started to wipe my face with my hand when she would turn away. Over time I grew in my boldness and would no longer wait for her to turn away, and in a mix of wit and affection she would say, “You may think your whipping it off, but you’re just rubbing it in!” This scene played out numerous times over the years, until I finally realized what a gift it was to have my grandma love me so much and as I touched my cheek one day after a characteristically wet kiss, as she exclaimed that I was whipping it in, I remember thinking that was what I was hoping to do.
Thankfully I came to a place where I realized the love that was being expressed in her kiss, but there were a number of years when if I could have found a cream or a spray that would have protected me from the messiness of that love I would have used it. As we make our Advent journeys this year, my prayer for us is that we don’t allow the holiday hustle and bustle to be the force field that protects us from the love God wants to express to us in the mystery of this season.
Emmanuel, the name means God is with us. And just as for those connected with that first Christmas, we will meet God in the places we would least expect if make room in our hearts to listen to the Spirit and follow where we are lead. Emmanuel, God is with us indeed, but will we notice or will we just try to wipe off his love? May we recognize God in our midst and take the opportunity this Advent and Christmas to spend some time rubbing the grace of Christ into our hearts.