December 16, 2018 - Homily07/17/2019
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, the most wonderful time of the year. With kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For most of us, that famous Christmas song certainly rings true, especially for us Oakland Raider fans after last week’s stunning victory over the Steelers. As today’s readings remind us, the holiday season is a time to rejoice – to shout for joy, to sing joyfully, to be glad and exalt. The holidays are a time for family and friends, parties and presents, greeting cards and glasses of cheer. For most of us, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
But not for all. For some, this can be the most difficult, most painful time of the year. People who have recently lost a loved one, those struggling to find adequate employment, broken or separated families, the seriously ill, the lonely, and so many others. For some, the holidays can be anything but “wonderful,” and certainly bring no cause for rejoicing. What does this season of Advent have to say to them?
“Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior…” When we think of the Christmas story and the coming of Christ, we usually picture very peaceful, quaint, even cute moments, the kind of images that make it onto greeting cards – the baby Jesus, sweetly sleeping in the manger, a brightly shining star leading the wise men through the silent night, angels praising God on high.
But if you read the Christmas stories as they actually appear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, those images form only part of the picture. Standing in stark contrast, we see other images too, images of darkness, sorrow, and suffering – a young mother in danger of abandonment and even execution for a pregnancy out of wedlock, the holy family fleeing for their lives to a foreign land, the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem, guilty of nothing but being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. If anyone had cause to find the Christmas season difficult or painful, it would be the holy family, the very people we celebrate.
But even through all the darkness, one light remains - the presence of Christ, and with him, the promise of salvation. Christ, Word made flesh and splendor of the Father, came into this world to drive the darkness away. To accomplish that task, he had to enter into that darkness, all the way, and shine the light of God into its deepest, darkest depths, which he did throughout his life, but especially about 30 years after that first Christmas during the first Holy Week and Easter. The powers of darkness did their worst, but Christ emerged shining all the brighter, casting his light into the darkness of all times and places through the power of his Holy Spirit and ensuring that his presence and promise would remain with us until the end of time.
And so it does. Christ remains with us today, in many ways, in his word, the sacraments, but in a special way in the faith community. What a gift we have in being a part of this community, that Christ himself lives within us, but also what a challenge, the challenge to shine the light of Christ wherever there is darkness and despair in our world today. Which brings us back to our question: what does the season of Advent have to say to those who are suffering during the holidays? Maybe a better question would be, what do we have to say, or even more, what can we do? Prayers, a phone call, a visit to the hospital, reconciling with estranged family, taking someone who lives alone out to lunch – these, and other things like them, cost so little, yet they can mean so much.
“Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior…” This Advent, shine the light of Christ on the people in darkness, bring his hope to those who need it most, and give them a reason to rejoice this holiday season.
Fr. Marc Stockton