Ignatian Spiritual Exercises
Week of Prayer #13
The Childhood of Jesus
When the angel appeared to the shepherds, he announced,
I bring you good news of great joy
which shall be for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ, the Lord.
This is good news and it comes with great joy! The dream of God is being realized: God is going to dwell among his people. That is the reality of the incarnation. Emmanuel! God is with us! And during Advent we especially embrace the season with joy, peace and Love. This is good and right, for God comes with joy.
There is another side to Advent that we cannot overlook. With the coming of God into the world, there is also suffering, tragedy, pain, loss and hardship. The gospel writers do not leave out this aspect of the birth of the Messiah. I find it very difficult to look at this darkness, but it is right there.
Following the visit of the Magi, when Herod realizes he was tricked or outwitted by the Magi, he becomes furious. And he takes out his anger on all the boys two years old and younger and has them slaughtered. Herod fears the loss of his power to the birth of the King of the Jews and makes these children the victim of his oppressive power. I feel the pain in my body of the loss these parents experienced. I feel the pain of the soldiers who had to carry out such a hideous order. And I feel the pain of all the awful things humans do to humans: the neglect and abuse of children, the holocaust, the mass shootings that happen all too frequently, and on and on. No I do not feel this on the level of those who are directly affected, but I do feel it. All of creation groans over the destructive acts of humanity.
Yes, this is part of Advent. But it is not all of Advent.
When the Magi left Herod, they saw the star.
When they saw that the star had stopped,
they were overwhelmed with joy.
The Magi then enter the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are, and they worship the King of Kings and offer their gifts to Him.
Joy is part of Advent. Overwhelming joy comes with God into our world. Joy is part of who God created us to be. We are that joy. When God comes to us, the joy that is in us recognizes the joy that comes with God and we are overwhelmed with joy.
There is a special joy in us when we see a child inhabiting their joy. It is a pure joy that comes from within the child. And it is a beautiful experience for us to participate in.
This is the joy of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord is our strength
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.