A living promise, a living Presence
The first reading for Christmas Mass during the Night comes from Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
There is no specific promise made in these sentences of Isaiah: no lifting of outstanding rent, no support with unpaid utility bills, no intercession with an angry landlord threatening eviction. These are realities of darkness and burdens that are almost impossible to lift on our own. The demands of daily life can feel crushing to those for whom darkness has become the norm. So many of our hardworking clients — the working poor — struggle with these tensions daily and, when they come to our doors, the light has gone out of their eyes. The hope they entrust to us is a fragile thing.
Light means many different things to different people. Into our shadowy and often scary world comes a Presence that diffuses the shadows and lights up the dark places — for good. This Presence walks in our shoes, inhabits our skin, and weeps beside us when the darkness threatens to overwhelm. Yet, this is the promise! Emmanuel! United to a God with Skin On, the darkness of our uncertain life dissipates bit by bit.
Who would DO this? What God is like this? “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” The names pour from tired hearts and astounded faces: “For me? You would do this for me?”
Flowing forth from the words of the Gospel comes another promise, an encouraging word that speaks to our deepest anxiety, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy…for today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you.” The darkness that we and our clients experience is temporary. We can take hope. This is a sign of a living promise, a living Presence that shines in our darkness…and the darkness shall not overcome it.
Today, this Feast of Feasts, when the Holy One takes on the flesh of creation in the ultimate signal of alliance, intercession, and oneness, is marked in time. This promise takes up space in history and is a sign to us, who dwell in darkness, that the Unending Dawn is on the horizon.
Monique Jacobs is Director of Mission and Identity at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada.