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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories: Advent – Christmas: Anticipation and Hope

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow. In the bleak midwinter, long, long ago Angels and Arc Angels, may have traveled there. Cherubim and Seraphim, thronged the air But only his mother, in her maiden bliss Worshiped the beloved, with a kiss

This is an old Christmas carol by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) which in some ways captures the character of this time. We are about to enter our winter time, our darkest, coldest season. In the northern hemisphere the shortest day of the year occurs on December 21. This is the day on which we have the least time of sunshine, our darkest day.

It is also the time when we find ourselves in a season of great anticipation and hope. Into this darkest of seasons, comes this mother, Mary. Through her the gift of the Incarnation takes place and God reaches out to touch our humanity. The wonder of the Incarnation rests in the way God comes, divinity and humanity come together in the person of Jesus the Christ. The Gospel of Luke captures the joy and the sense of expectation as Mary visits her relative, Elizabeth (Lk.1:39-45).

This scene in Luke reflects something of the promise and hope offered by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shone (Isaiah 9:2). This is God’s plan, God’s dream for all of creation.

Advent & Christmas bring light, promise and hope to the darkness of our world. There are times when we and our world are the people who walked in darkness and we certainly seek and hope for a world on which light has shone. This is the promise of Christmas and the Feast of the Incarnation. For it is this feast which speaks to us of Emmanuel, that is, God-is-with-us. Do we really believe this dream?

God has always been with us. The People of God, Israel was firm in their faith that God was always with them. The great act of God for them was in the liberation of the People from slavery through the Exodus. But God was with them even before this, even in slavery and captivity, in threat and in exile. The prophets, like Isaiah proclaimed this presence of the living God for them again and again. Quite beyond the People of Israel, God’s presence has been witnessed and acknowledged among the many peoples of the earth – in the challenges and the wonders of life and creation. But now, in the Incarnation, we see a new hope and promise, a new way of knowing God-is-with-us.

So what? What does all this mean for me? What difference does it make for our world? God continues to be a light for the darkness, the hope and the promise for all humanity and creation. Once having entered our world by sharing our humanity, God continues to be present in the Body of Christ, in all of us. God has shared our humanness in Jesus the Christ. We are God’s touch, God’s presence in our world. We continue to be the flesh and blood through whom God enters our world now.

We see the presence of God, in every single person, in the smallest, the weakest, the most vulnerable, the most dependent like the child of Mary. We can also see God’s presence in the great and the powerful for they too share our humanity. May God continue to guide and bless each of us.

Reflection Question ~ Where do I see God and God’s love in those who surround me in this Advent-Christmas?

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