Hope In The Manger
Lynne Elwinger, O.C.D.
Stay awake and be ready, an Advent hymn urges us. Something remarkable, something important, is about to happen. The Divine infant is going to be born right here on Earth in our time, in this very unlikely and seemingly less than desirable place. When the baby arrives, only a few nearby neighbors (shepherds in the original story), who work nights and are awake, even know about it. Soon after the infant's birth, there will be those who want to kill this baby who has the potential to challenge their power over everyone. As a result, the whole family will have to flee the country to a foreign land for a time to keep the baby safe. In the end, the baby's life, death and resurrection will bring healing, wholeness and a promise of eternal imperishable life to all people and to the earth itself.
Each Advent and Christmas season, reflecting anew on the familiar story, I seek with the Magi the meaning of this incarnation of the Divine within human form, honoring with them once again the amazing up-close glimpse of God. Meister Eckhart, (1260-1328), a Christian mystic, tells us that God is always needing to be born in us. I began to ponder what that means in our lives today. Can I see some signs that this birthing is actually happening in my life, in the lives of others? What sign is appearing in the sky of our poor struggling world amidst all the never-ending crises and catastrophes?
The clearest sign that I see of God-with-us today is the presence of hope in our world. Hope that, arising from a source unknown to us in the heart of God, incarnates in our own hearts, minds and spirits. Hope which persists against all odds, no matter what is happening around us, is the divine infant eternally being born in the humble manger of our hearts. Sometimes we know clearly what it is that births hope in us, but more often than not, it arises unexpectedly in unexplainable ways.
A Bright Star In A Dark Sky
When hope is born, we see a bright star in a dark sky, and we know that, in the end all will be well, even if the middle is messy. Yes, forces will arise to attempt to dim or snuff out hope, but they cannot prevail unless we turn our hearts over to them. And even then, the hope-gift, always being given by God, may find a new entryway back into our weary lives. We need to stay awake and watch for it, remembering that hope often arises in improbable places and at unexpected times.
The Power Of Hope
The power of hope should never be underestimated. Because of it, great deeds have been done, wrongs righted, those in need served and lives saved. Hope is God's presence, the Divine indwelling of God's love within us, made visible right here and now in our everyday lives. We cannot make hope happen – it is a gift. When we honor hope as our loving God's way of being truly with us every day, we move deeper into the mystery which is our life in God and God's life in us. The presence of the hope-child in the manger of our hearts powerfully connects us with the One who has called us into life. It also connects us with one another and with the entire created world. We are meant to be bearers of Divine Hope in our time and place. Then every day becomes Christmas Day. Let us rejoice and be glad!
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