Fourth Sunday of Advent: “Let us not be scandalized by the manger!”
One candle, a week at a time – the flame of HOPE in the shorter days and the longer nights.
We stir up the hope that is in us: “Emmanuel” – the Advent name for God-with-us.
A light in our front window: “Come in from the cold, come in and warm yourself” – an invitation that speaks to the heart of a city with the Heart of God. One more candle, a week at a time, becomes a circle of encounter and welcome. Food, warmth, support, encouragement are hallmarks of HOPE. The Dehonian name for God is COMPASSION … is MERCY. We remind ourselves to be messengers of Hope. We offer our presence, some minutes of our time, our listening hearts, our prayers, our advocacy and our solidarity in whatever way we can. Those who labor, are over-burdened and excluded need support, encouragement, tenderness and just a safe space to be …
As you know, birth is never comfortable and Bethlehem, small and unassuming, not an important place, known for sheep and shepherds was no exception. Away from home, in a strange and crowded place, people coming and going – hustle and bustle, noise and over-crowding. The little town was whooping it up: “No room – sorry. No vacancy. Full up – try somewhere else.” They knew no one there. They were strangers from distant Nazareth. An out-of-town couple, tired out from their journey down south. Who would welcome them, open their door to them, find a warm corner for them – if not indoors, at least out of the cold and the dark, with a roof over their heads? And so, the important happened in an out-of-the-way place: a stable, a manger, a few animals, a bed of straw with the presence of sheep and shepherds.
Isaiah’s God, Emmanuel, is with us, one of us, like us in all things but sin, sharing our human brokenness and mortality. Not apart from or above us, not remote. Not just over there, somewhere. Not just back then. But right here, right now … God-with-us.
The words of Erik Varden, OSCO, Bishop of Trondheim, Norway, seem to best capture what our world is experiencing and what could be a possible gift that we as Dehonians could offer:
“In a world marked by indifference and cynicism, hopelessness and division, it is our [Dehonian] task to stand for something different: to point to the light that no darkness can overcome, to nurture good will, to enable communion founded on trust, in peace, to bear witness that death has lost its sting, that life is beautiful, and of inviolable dignity.”
We are called to “identify the geographical and existential peripheries and opt for the poor, migrants, prisoners, indigenous peoples, marginalized …” (His Way Is Our Way)
It is here that the outcast and the stranger — “Bear the aching face of Christ”. (Letter for Christmas 2019)