Your Light will come Jerusalem

Your Light will come Jerusalem
The Lord will Dawn on you in Radiant Beauty

Each Advent we spend one glorious Saturday afternoon in the local church gym converted to a Christmas wonderland. We are surrounded by about 100 of the beautiful women we serve and many more of their delightful, energetic children decked out in their Christmas best. We put the kids to work reenacting the story of the Nativity. They each have a part, from the sheep in the field to Mary, Joseph and the Angel Gabriel. The whole process of casting, costuming, and rehearsal all takes place in less than an hour and the children are ready to make their moms proud for the entire year.

One memorable year, the play was proceeding as it usually does- a stage full of cattle grazing on potato chips, sheep wandering around Bethlehem (and on and off stage), and angels prancing in from the edges to make unscripted solo performances. We came to the scene of the Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and foretold the conception of Christ. Mary replied sincerely and with a slight Bronx flourish:

“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to MY Word.”

In the midst of our low chuckle at the mix up of Mary’s words, our hearts were pierced at the realization of how many times that is our exact response to God. When He invites us to participate in His plan with our lives, we respond: May it be done unto me according to MY will.

Why do we respond in this way? So often it is the response of fear: fear of letting go of our plans, fear of changing the course of our life, or even of our day. There is a fear that we will not be able to persevere in His call to our hearts, even though we desire it so deeply, and a fear of the unknown, the darkness that hides the future from us.

This past thanksgiving, we were gathered around the table with a special family we are serving in our mission. As is our custom, we shared with one another what we were grateful to God for in this past year. The oldest daughter, Sarah, is six and has recently been struggling with a new fear of the dark. When it was time for Sarah to share, she pronounced boldly “I am grateful for the lights.”

Sarah was confident enough to bring her little fear, without any shame, to God and knew that He would take care of her. As she thanked God for His tender attentiveness to her particular need, she made a statement of profound trust in God, who is her Father and who provides for her.

When Mary pronounced her Fiat, she did not see clearly how God’s Will would play out in her life. She had many reasons to fear what saying yes to God would mean. As she conceived the Light of the World in her womb, it might have seemed that her life grew darker- Joseph’s misunderstanding, the long trip to Bethlehem, no room in the Inn, Simeon’s prophecy, Herod’s attempt to kill the Child, and the flight into Egypt. Yet Mary held fast to the Word of God- the Light- who was growing in her womb, whom she knew she could trust with her will and to whom she could bring every fear of her heart. He would hear her, and the Father would respond with the Light.

This Christmas, Christ comes to us as the Light to overcome the shadows of our fears, as we stumble over our own wills. As it says in the Prologue of Gospel of John, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) Little Sarah and our Blessed Mother show us how to offer to the Lord our hearts with all of our confusion, fears, desires, and needs. If we respond with gratitude even before our fear is overcome or all has become clear, we begin to glow from the inside with the peace and warmth of the Light who is Christ.

When we entrust to God all our fears, no matter how little or large, as Sarah did, we too can pray: Thank You God for the Light. Without Him, Lord, I am in darkness and I am scared. But you Father know this, and have provided the Light for me so that I may always be confident in your Love. I trust that, following your Will, I may conceive the Light within me, even though all around is darkness, and like John that Baptist, bear witness to that Light. Amen.