We approach Christmas with vivid, violent reminders of the evils caused in our society by selfishness, ruthless ambition, twisted hatred and the craze for power at every level. This ugly drama is played out all over our world: in the business community, in our politics, in the bitterness and irreconcilable differences sometimes found in our homes and families, among the peoples of Eastern Europe hopelessly engulfed in a war not of their choosing, in the mistrust found among nations and even in the lack of trust in church leadership.
Yet we gather as a people of faith in a holy season of hope. The voice of fear is drowned out for us by the message we were given in last week’s Scriptures: "Be strong, fear not! Here is your God!" That message is reinforced today in the example of two who rose above their fears with absolute trust and confidence in God's love, Joseph and Mary. Both are told not to be afraid in the face of an uncertain future. Mary would humbly accept her role as Mother of the Word-Incarnate. Joseph would abandon traditional wisdom and take his beloved as his wife, despite rumors and the pointing of fingers.
Through this young couple, God would give a sign to the whole of history, the birth of a Child - Emmanuel, God-with-Us - who would put an end to our fears and bring calm to our hearts.
The birth of this Child points to a much more universal mystery. God's irrevocable choice of our world - with all of its turmoil, fear, and uncertainty - is the place where salvation happens. And this Child is the one who would finally unite the human family in a new community of freedom, justice and peace.
He stands with all human beings who yearn for a radical change of heart and life, who crave liberation from the power of evil, who seek release from all forms of oppression - religious, political, social, and economic. He stands as the only One who can take away our fear and make clear our vision.
It is Jesus who lives the message, challenging political and religious systems, embracing a radical poverty of spirit, and reaching out with compassion and liberation for all the oppressed.
It is He who stirs the profound longings in all of our hearts for true freedom, justice, and peace for ourselves, and for all of our brothers and sisters across the world. It is He who reinforces our Hope. He invites us to commit ourselves fully to these values. He begs us not to trivialize our resolve by being satisfied with token and occasional gestures of Christianity, but to strive even more forcefully to eliminate the hoarding, climbing, and controlling in our own lives and in the world at large.
The human family needs as never before to hear the message of Advent which can free us from our fears and give us direction. More importantly, we need to recognize and respond to the constant invitation of Jesus, God-with-us. We need to join Him in a new world community of shared love, peace, and justice.
The spirit of Advent and Christmas is a mirror in which we see reflected the very best that life can become. Through our faith and courage, we can help each other to put away our fears, to move from darkness to light, to begin to hear again the words of life. We can reach out to support - by the strength of our love and concern - those whose hands are feeble and whose knees are weak. Through our witness to God's love, so many who are crippled by doubt and despair might be able to leap again with courage and energy and new life.
So let's truly be "church." Let’s be God's holy people. Let's be light in darkness, peacemakers, and life-givers in every aspect of our lives.
Let’s put aside our own fears so that we can truly witness to the hope this Advent season proclaims.