I’ve been reading about the new Spitzer telescope.
At 5.4 million miles from Earth, our newest space telescope silently watches the stars in a night which never ends.
It can see through the eternal darkness to detect new tidings from the farthest heavens, it can see both visible and invisible things.
Well, it’s actually very cold – liquid helium keeps it at a cool 450 Degrees Below Zero — so it can detect any infrared energy at all.
Undistracted by its own heat and light, it actually feels the infrared light that radiates like glory from all warm things in the universe. I saw a photograph taken by this new eye in the sky – showing a giant cloud of gas in which baby stars are starting to form, like a manger for suns.
Turns out the giant gas cloud is a couple thousand light years away, which means the picture I just saw is actually a photograph of the distant past – a past which only now is able to connect with people like you and me.
The photograph I saw on Friday was a picture of suns preparing to be born at the same time the prophets were preparing for the Son of God to be born.
In the Gospel today we read about Mary. She was an expecting mom, gone off into the desert hill country to see her family. You can bet she looked up at the stars on those cold dark nights.
As Friday’s news of gestating stars was crossing the universe on a beam of light, a pregnant Mary was crossing the desert. I bet she looked at the stars as she felt the child of God moving in her belly. I bet she prayed to her God.
Because Mary knew that God was good. Knowing this gave her the courage to trust him. And with the courage to trust him, she desired only to do his will.
By her desire to do his will, Mary opened the door through which God came to be one of us. And now you and I feel the warmth of that truth across two-thousand years.
I’m not like Mary.
Like most of us, I am often blind to news from heaven. I generally don’t see what God is saying, because – and I hate to say it – much of the time I don’t have my spiritual eyelids open.
Much of the time the weight of my concerns on earth keeps my spiritual eyelids tethered to the ground.
It is rarer than I would like that I actually cut free for a gracious moment and drop the weight of will for my spiritual eyelids to open.
But in those brief flashes of true prayer – I feel like I can see the news from heaven.
But Mary was a real prophet. I think she opened her spiritual eyes, saw the news, and said “yes” to God’s will. Clearly, to be the mother of God’s only Son – Mary was a master of yielding to God’s will and not her own.
Mary teaches us that in shedding our wills, we allow our spiritual eyes to scan the heavens and see the signs of God. And when we see his light, Mary teaches us to grasp it inside of us, so that through us, the light of God might be known to the people of today.
I believe that God wants to send each of us a message that will change lives. I believe that God wants to come into this world through each of us. I believe that’s why we’re here.
I’m reminded of the message my wife received about seven years ago.
She was a young woman living in Honduras, following the desert journey of a missionary in a hard land.
She was worried about somebody who was a friend, and who was in a lot of pain – me. Melanie and I were only friends in those days, and she was with me when I received a heart-breaking letter from a long distance. The woman I thought I would marry sent me a “Dear John” letter, and broke my heart.
Melanie was a good friend, and she was worried about me. Now, she grew up in the Episcopal Church, and like many of us poor Episcopalian sinners, she never considered herself profoundly spiritual – at least not a “holy roller.”
One night, worried about me, she prayed to God. She said quite selflessly – “God, give Greg my share of your love.”
Then, perhaps after crossing through the heavens, something like warm stardust appeared in her room.
She saw something like light, she heard something like a voice, she felt rather weird, and she heard God say to her: “Don’t you get it? I don’t need to give Greg your share, there’s enough of my love for everyone. There are no shares – there is plenty for everyone to have all that they need.”
She was up all night. She is not a spontaneous dancer, but she danced. She can speak almost no Spanish, but she spoke to God in Spanish that night. When she told me of her vision the next day, I knew for sure she was telling me the truth. And it touched me down all the way to my broken heart – and perhaps at that very moment it started to heal. [Though it still took a while.]
And she’s never been the same – and we’re both here today because of that one humble prayer.
This advent, as we prepare for the birth of a son, take a moment to see. Can you drop your will in a fit of grace and lift you spiritual eyes to the heavens? Can you get out of your own way to let God through to you and to the world?
I guarantee you that if you seek his will, God will be made manifest through you. And you will change the rest of our lives.