“Beloved: Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ … remain in him.” – 1 Jn 2:22, 27

Everywhere that I have been this holiday season, I’ve encountered people who are sick: my brother’s entire family in San Diego, Jesuit Novices in Culver City, close friends in LA, and relatives in Dallas. Even though I actively rested more and took precautions to ward off germs, I received an unwanted visitor: two days of diarrhea. It happened soon after I hesitantly prayed to have two days of uninterrupted rest. I did not get the continuous respite that I wanted, but I received an unexpected insight about the Incarnation. (Darn prayer.)

The mystery of the incarnation points to the paradox that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, as today’s first reading challenges us. While its significance often eludes me, my sickness enabled a surprising discovery that a sick body can free a healthier spirit. As I received my diminished physical state, somehow my connection with God received a boost. Lingering loneliness became a better friend. Repeating disappointments became portals to let go of false expectations. Desolation ushered in consolation. Mysteriously, when we embrace our humanity, we welcome the divine. When we accept our health or sickness, strengths or weaknesses, lights or shadows, blessedness or brokenness, we receive Christ’s life-giving presence. This Christmas Season invites me to discover anew how I am God’s favorite hiding place. Unexpected insights from unwanted visitors.

My sickness uncovered a simple gift that revisits me this year, again and again. The grace of taking deep breaths to welcome God, to pray, to live in the present moment. I am drawn back to this unexpected grace as a way to remain in Christ. I trust that in doing so, I can enter 2018 with greater responsiveness, meaning, and hope.

Jesus, with what unexpected (and reoccurring) grace in the past year are you inviting me to linger longer? How might this be a stepping stone for me to begin this new year?

Photo Credit: Ellen Tadd