By Derick Cranston
A 14-year-old girl, in her last months of pregnancy, sets out on a journey with a husband her family arranged for her to wed. The husband is not the father of her child, and she wonders if he even loves her.
He is much older and remains somewhat of a mystery. An occupying power in their homeland has ordered them to report to the small, backwater town of her husband’s birth. This means a journey that will cover 100 miles over rocky desert terrain. Everything they own they carry with them, and the possibility of being robbed is always on their mind. They do not know where their next meal will come from. Fear and anxiety are their constant companions.
When they get to Bethlehem, they do not have any friends or family who they can stay with. Mary goes into contractions, and Joseph is frantic to find a place — any place — where his wife can safely give birth. In the midst of strife and turmoil, persecution and abuse, God breaks into time and history to take on human flesh. In doing so, he sanctifies the human condition of suffering and heartache, and gives meaning to the meaningless of life. The eternal life of glory breaks into the messiness of our ugly, temporary lives.
And this is the way God comes to us even today. Just when things get so crazy and out of control, and you are overwhelmed to the point where you cannot take it anymore, God is there. The grace of God shines through the murkiness of our lives to bring clarity and purpose.
We rush around from one appointment to another. We over schedule ourselves and our minds are always on the next task we need to finish. Fear and anxiety are our constant companions.
The first snowflake gently floats to the ground from the sky above. Then another one appears, and then two or three more. Like angels dressed in white with uplifted wings, more and more snowflakes gracefully dance from the heavens above, to the ground below. After a few hours everything is blanketed in a crystalline white tapestry. The dull barren countryside comes to life in brilliant bright shades of white. Drifts of snow are whipped around fences and roads like smooth delicate frosting on a birthday cake. Life comes to a complete standstill and silence shrouds the land. The cold and darkness force us to slow down from our over-busy lives and ponder the beauty of it all.
It is a silent night and a holy night. In the quiet stillness of deep winter, we can hear the faint singing of angelic voices serenading us, calming our fear and anxiety. Joseph has found a safe, warm place for Mary. The long, hard journey is over and all is well. The strife has ended and we can lay our weary heads down to sleep. The glory of God has been made into flesh, and has turned our fear and anxiety into peace and serenity. All is calm, all is bright. As the song goes, “Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild.” Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. And indeed they do. God is with us in the world — Emmanuel. Let us rejoice, and be glad.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)