Intention: We pray for a joyous and transforming Christmastime for our world, one that fills it with peace, justice, and good will toward all.
Today’s Gospel | Luke 1:67-79
Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.
Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Reflection for the Eve of the Birth of our Lord
Long ago, on the eve of our Lord’s birth, the people of Israel were anxious. They were living in difficult times, contending daily with hardship and despair, struggling to overcome the crippling effects of an oppressive military empire and a self-centered religious establishment. Longing for relief, they looked to their scriptures and to God’s promise of deliverance. What would follow is the chronicle that Christians around the world have been following these past 40 days. Now, as this Advent approaches its climax, we might ask ourselves if its scenario is as much in the past as we think, and what that might mean for us on this latest Christmas Eve.
When one says that today’s world is a far cry from that of the 1st century, that observation is usually referring to megastructures such as technology, industry, government, and the like. However, when the focus shifts to issues of social fabric and human development, there is a different and disturbing picture. Truth be told, things have not progressed so impressively. Now, as then, everyday life is still blighted by widespread poverty, indiscriminate violence, blatant corruption, ignorant prejudice, callous indifference. After all this time, with all that has been learned and accomplished, people are still struggling to find dignity, security, and fulfillment for themselves and their families. They are dismayed both by what they see around them and their apparent helplessness to do anything about it. For many, the world is a cold and cruel a place as ever.
And so, once again we find ourselves in a darkness that feels insurmountable, desperate in our hope that it is not. And once again, on this Christmas Eve, we are asked to contemplate the promise of a single star. Is it possible that our fears can be banished by this one light? Is it true that it brings to all of us a compassionate and redeeming power that can defeat sin with love? Our faith tells us that it is. We know, and we must proclaim, that while brokenness and setbacks may still find us, they will not be the final word, because our redemption has come to us and dwells among us. Humanity will never be forgotten, never be alone, never be overcome. Today, we can take heart because, as said in the writings of Desiderius Erasmus, “Bidden or unbidden, God is here.”
Eternal Father, your love is everlasting. You are our God and we are your people for all eternity. As we ready ourselves to welcome your Perfect Presence in the coming of your Son, may we prepare a place for him in our hearts. Take away our smallness and our fears, and rekindle in us the fire of our faith. Make us ready to receive the gift of our salvation as he seeks to dwell with us and fill us with the light of newborn peace, hope, and love. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.