Readings: Isaiah 12: 2-6, Amos 9:8-15, Luke 1:57-66
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 12:6)
We are well into our Advent journey by now and perhaps getting a little tired of the darkness that surrounds this season. Not only are the days getting progressively shorter, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, but the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is all too often fraught with sadness and loss. Clergy know to prepare themselves for the onslaught of funerals that often accompany this time of year.
Every one of us knows someone who is struggling to find joy and peace at this time of the year, someone who is trapped in the darkness of the Advent season figuratively looking east with great anticipation for the dawning of the light. Perhaps this is why so many of us can’t wait to put the Christmas lights up and decorate our Christmas trees the weekend following Thanksgiving, so we can be captivated by the festive lights and perhaps even skip through Advent altogether.
I for one am grateful for the reading from Isaiah today that finishes so powerfully. “Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” This scripture text can be understood in so many different ways, but to me it is best captured in a sermon written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). In his sermon Bernard wrote, “We know that there are three comings of the Lord…. In the first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty…. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in the middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.” (The Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 1, Advent and Christmas, Catholic Book Publishing Corp., New York, NY: 1975, pp. 169)
I find this to be a life-giving revelation that is often overlooked or misunderstood. The truth is, Christ does come to each one of us not just in the incarnation (Christmas) or the parousia (the end of time), but in every moment of our lives. You and I live in the midst of this sacred truth with every breath that we take. The present moment is infused with hope and meaning, with light in which no darkness can stand, but we need to seek it, even when the darkness seems impenetrable to us. In our midst is the Holy One of Israel and the truth is, there isn’t a thing that we can say, do, or even experience that can change this.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are in our midst, right now, as light banishing the darkness. Help us to first seek and recognize you and then help us to welcome you into every moment. Amen.
Offered by Dave Fredrickson, spiritual director, priest, seeker of the face of God, child of God.