Saint for the day: Christmas at Greccio
2 Samuel 7:5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 – Pslam 89 – Luke 1:67-79
There’s an interesting twist to today’s celebration which puts together the 4th Sunday in Advent which is also Christmas Eve. So, we lost most of a whole week of waiting with only three weeks of Advent. Still, the Church asks us to “Vigil” none the less in quiet preparation for tomorrow’s Feast of the Birth of Jesus into our world. “Vigil” means that we wait in confidence, and in darkness, for the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. Yet, many of us – both Religious and Lay – are “busy about many things” and we need to hear Jesus telling us, “only one thing is necessary … choose the better part.” (my own, loose translation of the “Martha, Martha story in Luke 10:41.)
A wise, old nun once told me, “Don’t every say you didn’t have time to do such and such. You always have time to do the things you want!”
So, on this day before Christmas, can we put ourselves in the scene with Mary and Joseph waiting in the darkness of a cave in Bethlehem? Waiting for the birth of a “child of the promise” that they only had the whisperings of angels to give them confidence. We, however, know the story so we should be better able to wait for the outcome.
This day is filled with irony and we hear in the first reading from 2 Samuel about David fearing that while he lives in a house of Cedar, the “Ark: the House of God” dwells in a tent. Yet the real presence of God’s Son is to be born in a cave and laid in a manger. And all this takes place in a town called, Bethlehem – “House of Bread,” reminding us that Jesus is “the Bread of Life.
Then, as if we’re not filled with enough images, the Church gives us a Gospel about the father of John the Baptist with the emphasis more on Zachariah than on JB. Zachariah had to wait in his own “darkness” – not being able to speak until he realized what was happening with the birth of his “son of his old age.”
But, even though we know the whole story, we still have to be able to place ourselves in the picture and finally be given the words to testify to what is happening to us and to our world which so vividly needs to know of God’s plan to be Light in our darkness and peace in our worry.
Try to spend this day in quiet reflection about what is going to happen tomorrow. The Church, in her wisdom, has us celebrate these feasts over and over, again and again, knowing that we sometimes need to be “knocked upside the head” to finally “get it” and to break into song like Zachariah! Amen!