As we prepare to celebrate mass on Dec. 25 we are invited to pause and strive to hear the words of Scripture through new ears so that God’s message for us in 2017 is not lost in the familiar stories.
Throughout the season of Advent, we have heard the words of Isaiah filled with hope, and now the message is one of fulfilment and peace. Isaiah announces: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shone.” This sentence can bring calm to my spirit and peace into my day.
Scripture scholars remind us that Isaiah exercised his ministry as a prophet for about 40 years. Isaiah was prophesying during the reign of three kings of Judah. The kings were not strong leaders and the historical situation of Judah was depicted as a time of doom and darkness. Although we cannot know for certain the time of this particular prophesy, we do know that it speaks of a time when darkness has been replaced by joy.
Walking in darkness can be a lonely and dangerous path. For a few months in 1978 I lived in Whitehorse, where it was dark almost all day. The darkness could seep into your bones and mind, making it difficult to live with joy.
Isaiah’s words of fulfilment bring me peace, especially as I see the landscape around me looking dull and lifeless. Sometimes it seems the darkness in nature is amplified by the darkness in our families, communities and country. The darkness of fear, doubt, poor health, grief, impending death, an uncertain financial future and broken promises can make it difficult for us to hear the words of joy from the prophet Isaiah. As church, as disciples, how are we called to hear and live the message of Isaiah? How are we to embrace what it means to be people who have walked in darkness and have seen a great light?
In the familiar story from Luke’s Gospel the shepherds may give us a clue as to how we are to live. Luke wants us to know that the birth of Jesus took place during a particular time in our history. The actual account of the birth of Jesus is rather brief. The last part of this Gospel account turns our attention to angels and shepherds.
The first message of the angels to the shepherds is “Do not be afraid.” Who in your life needs to hear these words? How can you share with others the truth that we do not need to live in fear?
Luke makes it clear that the birth of Jesus is not for a select few; indeed, the angels are bringing news of great joy for all people. I cannot imagine the shepherds hearing this news and carrying on with their nightly routine.
Today, as we hear the Gospel, we already know Christ and we know how the story unfolds. The shepherds did not. They went with haste to see if the angels were telling the truth. One thing we know for certain is that the shepherds did not keep this news to themselves. They shared it with others.
In my own life I think of how I share the good news of Christmas. For me a significant piece of the good news is that Jesus, our Saviour, is born in a stable and his first visitors were not the elite of the society. They were the poor and often considered the outcasts. Jesus came to bring good news to all people, including the people who walk in darkness. In my life and in the lives of many, there are people who walk in perpetual darkness and we who know Christ are called to be a light in their world.
During this season our society is decorated with vibrant lights that sparkle and dispel the darkness of long nights and shorter days. If we, the followers of Christ, are going to live out our baptism, we need to be a light for those who are suffering, experiencing poverty, loneliness and despair. We are called to let the light of Christ, which no darkness can extinguish, shine through so that the message of Christmas is not just heard, it is witnessed and experienced by all people.
Catherine Ecker, a parish catechist and freelance writer, speaker and facilitator lives in Barrie, Ont. For over 35 years she has presented and led times of formation on catechetical and liturgical topics throughout Canada. She is married, a parent and grandparent Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org