I chatted with someone after church yesterday called Avila. I told her that I’d never met anyone with that name before. She then informed me that she was named after the Spanish town of Avila and after it’s most famous resident – Theresa of Avila. I knew that Theresa was a famous Sixteenth Century mystic who had visions of God. She’s known to have been a very ‘spiritual’ woman and I suspected that Avila had heard many stories about Theresa and her prayers. So I told her a story about Theresa that I thought she probably didn’t know. It goes like this…
Theresa is sitting on the toilet in the outside privy. She’s saying her prayers and is hungry, so in one hand she has a prayer book and in the other a sweet bread roll. Suddenly the Devil appears to her and begins to condemn her for her irreverent choice of a place to pray. But Theresa is unaffected by the Devil and simply replies: ‘The bread roll is for me, the prayers are for God, the rest is for you!’
Avila loved this story! Indeed she’d never heard it before and it made her laugh. It like it because it reveals a whole new dimension to Theresa’s faith, showing it not to be ‘super-spiritual’ but real and earthed. Which is what Advent is all about.
Advent is about the coming of Jesus. About Jesus sharing humanity with us. Theologians call this incarnation – God taking human flesh. It reminds us that God is not distant but close and understands what it is to be human. He not only appreciates our emotions and feelings but also the way our bodies work. He even knows that we get hungry and need to poo! God is not shocked by our humanity and nothing is unspiritual to him. Such is the earthed nature of our amazing Advent God.
Is there any aspect of your life which you’d previously seen as unspiritual, where God was excluded? Given that Jesus really understands what it is to be human, why not invite him in?