Christmastide: From Waiting to Wonder
for Christmas Eve: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)
for Christmas Day: Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12), John 1:1-14
Advent Calendar (Cycle A) and guidance for using the lectionary
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”—O Little Town of Bethlehem
Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent and the official beginning of the Christmas season. Throughout this evening, in various candlelight services and intimate family gatherings around the world, we begin celebrating the fruit of our waiting: Christ our Savior is born!
But life on our planet is hard. Political unrest, economic uncertainty, civil wars, natural disasters, escalating violence, unresolved tension between people and nations all demand that we move beyond sloppy sentimentality to ask the question: What does the coming of Christ mean—if anything—in the face of it all?
Father Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit poet and peacemaker, has written a poem that addresses this very question. Written as an Advent poem and adapted slightly here, it is unflinching in naming the harsh realities of our human situation, but at every turn it confronts these realities with the promise of Christ’s presence in these difficult places. Referring to many of the biblical phrases found in our lectionary readings, it affirms the real-world hope the coming of Christ brings and the difference that hope makes to our world.
So today, in whatever situation we find ourselves, let us join with our brothers and sisters around the world and affirm the great promises of our faith fulfilled in the person of Christ. Together let us proclaim: Christ our Savior is born!
by Daniel Berrigan
It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word…
This is true:For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the church, before we can be peacemakers.
This is true: I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh,and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions,and your old shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity, of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
So let us [move from Advent to Christmas] with hope, even hope against hope.
Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.
Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage:
Jesus Christ—the Life of the world.
©Ruth Haley Barton. 2013. Not to be reproduced without permission. Advent by Daniel Berrigan used by permission
Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center. A teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.
If you are joining us for week 4, you might want to also access other eReflections in this Advent series:
Read A Different Kind of Calendar
Read Advent 1—The Importance of Waking up
Read Advent 2—Joyful Preparations
Read Advent 3—Gifts in the Wilderness
Read Advent 4: Joseph And The Walk Of Faith