Christmas is upon us. We are on the Third Sunday of Lent, we began this morning our series of nine Simbang Gabi Masses leading up to Christmas, and today’s readings are full of anticipation of joy.
We all know that the reality for many of us at Christmas time is very different from anticipation of joy. Whether it be a loved one battling cancer, a recent diagnosis of a neurological disorder, a son or daughter in distress with no solution in sight, whatever our darkness may be, Christmas tends to have the effect of making our distress more acute. In Christ, we are one, so even though this may not be the case for us this year, it’s important that we be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters for whom this Christmas is painful, that we acknowledge their pain and live it with them in prayer. But it’s also important that we go beyond it.
It’s important that we reaffirm, for ourselves and on behalf of those who are in distress, our Christian expectation of future joy, our conviction that, in the words of today’s readings, “the Lord is in our midst”, that “we shall fear disaster no more”, that “he will renew us in his love”, that “he will exult over us with loud singing as on a day of festival”. It’s important that we repeat with Isaiah: “God is my salvation, I will trust, and will not be afraid; we will draw water from the wells of salvation; great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel”.
St. Paul knew that Jesus really is Emmanuel, God-with-us. That is why he is so bold as to say: whatsoever the surface reality of your life may be in any hour, “rejoice in the Lord always,… do not worry about anything,… and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. St. Paul was right. There really is a peace of God which surpasses all understanding. It comes from a deep-down uniquely Christian conviction which is ours, that Jesus really is with us, never more so than when we are in distress, and that for that reason, we are never, and will never be alone. I like to put it this way: It is our privilege as Christians to know, as a Spirit-given faith certainty, that whatsoever our current distress, it’s always true to affirm that because of Jesus’ presence to us, everything either is or is going to be – okay. That is no small certainty to live on. That is where the “peace that surpasses all understanding” comes from.
By the grace of God, in this Advent and Christmas season, may all of us in the Body of Christ, and in particular those among us who are in distress, experience this conviction that God really is with us, that we are not alone, that everything either is or is going to be okay, and may we experience something of the joy and the peace which surpasses all understanding that proceed naturally from these convictions.