“And you, child, will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace” – Luke 1:78-79
As we write this reflection in late August, we realized that for this past year-and-a-half many of us in the United States, and in the world at large, have lived in the shadow of uncertainty, fear, and death for a variety of reasons: the pandemic with its dangerous variants, terrorism, wars and unrest, political instability and polarization, famine, floods, and fires. Simply watching the daily news can be an exhausting and depressing activity. And then there are our own anxieties, illnesses, and sorrows that are part of each of our lives. The famous poet Christina Rossetti in her poem A Christmas Carol describes it perfectly:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
But perhaps, at this holy time, a day of “almost joy” but “not just yet,” on the threshold of Christmas, we can take a moment for hopeful reflection on the reading from Luke above. Because those of us who “sit in darkness and death’s shadow” are the very beloved people whom our God of tender mercy plans to visit. Can you imagine such a visit this Christmas Eve? What fierce light would God’s tender mercy shed on the darkness we carry within us? What compassionate love might heal our hearts or hold our hurts? What new life might be born in us?
It’s Christmas Eve, and like the shepherds and the magi, we are drawn to the Christ, and we trust that our feet will be guided into the path of peace. May the simplicity of the last stanza of Rossetti’s poem be our prayer this Christmas Eve.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Jeannette Suflita & Michael Buckley
To view the full Advent 2021 booklet in English, click here.
For Spanish, click here.
For French, click here.