Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Child for Us

Jesus invites us into a place of deep trust and freedom, where fear is conquered by the weakness of love. It is, after all, what he says over and over again to his disciples after his resurrection. “It is I, do not be afraid.” And so we are trying to learn that God’s love for us casts out all fear. We can simply fall backwards into him, into that confidence, that knowledge that we like him are beloved ones of God. This is the work of trusting, choosing to believe. For our belovedness is simply the way things are. No one can take it away. God is with us, on our side; we can stop running.

A group of doctors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. A young woman oncologist told the story of being totally overwhelmed by the situation in a very primitive tent hospital. There was a seemingly endless barrage of impossible medical traumas without proper medicines or instruments. And at one point she became paralyzed by her helplessness and fear. She was just then at the bedside of a little boy, whose leg had been amputated a few days earlier. It was all too much for her. Suddenly unable to function any longer, she began sobbing uncontrollably, her face hidden in her hands. It was then that this little boy about six or seven years old, saw her tears and her trembling and with a smile lifted his head from his pillow and encouraged her to move on to some other kids nearby whom he knew needed her attention more than he did. And remarkably she found she was able to do so. It was a numinous moment for her. For in that moment the power of death, the horror and hopelessness and fear were broken open. She witnessed in that little boy the triumph of love over pain and fear. See Boston Globe, Spring 2010.

Now in Advent we look for the little hand of God beckoning us not to be afraid. Whatever our fears - great or seemingly insignificant, great traumas or smaller nagging ones - Jesus our kind Lord notices and offers us accompaniment and a way out. You and I are more than our fears. This is why he comes for us, to save us from all that would paralyze and hurt us. We can hope, we can dream with Isaiah and be “confident and unafraid,” daring to discover our “strength and courage” in the Lord, our Savior, and so come to draw the water of hope and life and joy flowing from his wounded open side. Jesus comes to show us that we are deeply, indescribably loved and even liked by our Father God, a God who is very interested in us, on our side. We are loved more than we can imagine.

And so, in these darkest days of the year, the shortest days, “as the year grows older and the chill sets in,” let us make a place for Christ, a place where hope can grow in us, as he did in the womb of his Virgin Mother. Perhaps the best way to do this might be to be honest about our own fear and helplessness and dare to open this creaky, low door to the Divine Child of Hope, “the Child of ecstasies and sorrows;” and see fear as an invitation, an opportunity, a great open place where we can welcome him. From this most unlikely of places - like the smelly stall and the crib of straw in Bethlehem -  a tiny hand reaches out toward us. God is crying a message that “we are able not to be afraid.” Like that little boy in Port-au-Prince, we can point each other in the right direction, toward love and kindness. We can be unafraid; we are dearly loved by a God who dares to become a little Child.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Meditation by one of the monks.