Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest and theologian. He was a prolific writer in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. He taught at major universities like Notre Dame, Harvard and Yale.
Before his death in 1996, Nouwen had published 39 books and authored hundreds of articles. His books have sold over 7 million copies worldwide and have been published in more than 30 languages. Countless pastors have read his books and articles. In fact, in a magazine survey conducted by Christian Century in 2003, Nouwen's books were indicated as a first choice of authors for both Catholic and mainline Protestant clergy.
One of Nouwen’s themes was loneliness and the need for interpersonal connection. He was one of those spiritual writers who recognized God in the midst of what most people describe as the insignificant things of life.
His popularity as a spiritual guide is connected to his ability to describe his own personal struggles. He wrote, “I wanted to know how we could integrate the life of Christ in our daily concerns. I was always trying to articulate what I was dealing with. And I thought that if it was very deep, it might also be something other people were struggling with.”
As we enter the Advent season, we come to a special time of preparation ... preparing for Christmas and the birth of Jesus, but also preparing to see God in our midst in a new way. This preparation, if we take advantage of it, allows us to pause amid the busyness and commercialism of this time of year, to reflect on what God is doing in our lives right now! How can we see God amid the small and little things of life!
The word “Emmanuel” literally means, “God With Us.” Our challenge is to be able to recognize this reality and give thanks for it.
In his book, "Community," Nouwen writes the following: “The witness of the living Christ is the one who dares to point to life, wherever it takes place. That witness always reveals itself in weakness. It is always small. It is always something very precious, very tender, very gentle.”
So keep your eyes and hearts open to that witness, and look for the presence of God in the small things of life. This is the secret to seeing God in your heart and soul, these coming weeks of Advent!