Ellen Romer Niemiec
Giving Bones to Hope
On our way to 5 p.m. Mass on the first Sunday of Advent, my 4 year old complained that she didn’t like the dark. She also complained that we could only light just one candle on our Advent wreath. I reminded her - it’s just one for now, and this week we remember that sometimes we have just a little light. It’s a little light, but it will grow. She eventually ran over to turn our lamps off - she liked the candle better when it was the only light.
That little light feels awfully dim in the darkness right now. We’ve just had the longest night of the year. Christmas plans have gone awry for many who hoped for ‘normalcy’ and yet have returned to isolation. It doesn’t seem like the darkness won’t overcome the light.
Light gives us life, right? It - and God - are the source of life, the warmth that burns in us and makes it possible to grow. But celebrating Christ’s birth is not just a celebration of the light that has come into the world. It’s celebrating what the light gives us in life and what that life looks like.
For us and for our lives - God chose more. God chose to give bones and flesh and blood to that light. It isn’t a far away burning star. God came not to be a beautiful painting or a precious image or a bit of trite optimism, but to dwell with us in our messiness. Hope isn’t just fleeting - the Incarnation is something we can touch. God doesn’t invite us to hold on to an ideal of hope but to hold on to one another.
Having experienced two pregnancies and births, it’s a remarkable experience to spend months growing a whole person but never quite knowing what will be. You live in hope, picking out names and onesies to adorn the hope that is becoming flesh. And it quite suddenly stops being an ideal - it’s in your arms. It then crawls and it walks and it speaks and it complains about the darkness and wants to light all the Advent candles. It brings joy, suffering, trials and triumphs. It crystallizes hope and makes it real.
We may be in a time of darkness - some living a deeper darkness than others. It is especially hard to be reminded that we are flesh and blood and here to hold and touch one another when the one of the greatest acts of love we can offer
We point back to the light that shines through the darkness. We hold onto those we can touch and read.