Tonight our waiting ends. We call it “Nochebuena” in Spanish, the best of all nights. We gather to worship and praise God today, in our family or community meals, in our vigil masses. There is so much to give thanks for but above all for our salvation in Jesus. To paraphrase part of Zechariah’s canticle from today’s daytime gospel:
“You did it God!! You followed through on your promise to save us from our enemy and to set us free. Even as we have fallen again and again into fighting and division, into preferring the ways of destruction and death, you break in upon us like the dawn, your tender compassion shows us the way of peace.”
Sometimes I don’t feel ‘saved’ or free. I am still in the midst of the battle against the ‘standard’ of money, of appearances. The temptation to give in, to follow that god, is strong during advent. This year, with my oldest son, Philip, in Ecuador for the year, I feel freer from the temptation to show my love through material gifts, my faith through the artistry of the lights outside the home. As I read Philip’s reflections, I marvel at how God is caring for him in such tender ways through others I have never met and revealing God’s self to Philip in the intimacy of his heart. I feel the power of Immanuel in the strong bond with our son in spite of the distance. The less important falls away. I am drawn into time with God, to surrendering in trust.
The other kids are older too. Santa is not so important. (How did we ever fall into that in the first place??) I have friends here in Omaha, and a sister too, that also seek your way. We will gather for a Christmas day meal with other volunteers and elderly who otherwise would have been alone in homes and apartments. Our loving acts throughout the advent and Christmas seasons reinforce our freedom, strengthens us in community to depend less on worldly power and riches and to seek our security in the One who Saves. Others close to home and around the world need the witness of our faith, our actions in freedom for peace and for justice. Thomas Merton wrote: “Christ is born to us… in order that he may appear to the whole world through us.” (From Seasons of Celebration)
Let us gather to strengthen and support each other this Holy Night. God comes to us in ‘carne,’ in flesh, to share our struggles, experience our temptations and battles. God is Immanuel, with us. And God rejoices in us. In the first reading from the vigil tonight, Isaiah reminds us “As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.” We are saved! We are free! We are deeply loved.
Oh Holy Night! ¡O Noche Buena! Gracias.
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