Luke’s Gospel today lets us stand in the room and watch when two women, both of whom have been extremely surprised by life, exchange a greeting at the beginning of an overdue visit. Elizabeth is married but childless and is long past the years where a child is possible. Mary is in her early teens, just beginning her adult life and not yet married. But both are pregnant. Both are carrying new life within themselves thanks to a God for whom nothing is impossible. My favorite part of the story is when Elizabeth’s infant—who will later be named John and be called the Baptizer—does a little dance of joy in utero when he senses the Christ is near!
New life, or perhaps more accurately, a new lease on life, a restored sense of hope in life, is something we’re all looking for in these weeks after Sandy Hook. These are particularly tough days indeed when all is “merry and bright” and most kids are counting the hours until Christmas, while we adults can’t help but notice the layer of sadness that has settled over holiday this year. Nothing seems quite as bright. Nothing seems quite as pretty.
But our God revitalizes in surprising ways, says this Gospel, and babies and children seem to be a favorite avenue of grace for the Divine. After I read this passage, I began to realize how the brightest moments for me last weekend were due to children and babies: watching all the kids at the parish Christmas party, singing carols with the Gospel choir and some performing their own “dances of joy” to Jingle Bell Rock; the two women in an extended family who are both filled with the good news of new babies on the way; how little Nicholas, one of our Religious Education first graders, solemnly walked into the sacristy just before the 10am Mass and presented me with a green envelope (carried with both arms because it was bigger than his head) filled with Christmas cards from his classmates and how he grinned proudly at their impressive gift to me; the kid who printed oh-so-carefully the wish for me to have a “Grate Crismis!” with a cheerful holiday gray crayon!
Restorative. That’s the word that keeps running through my head over these vignettes. The perfect antidote to the evil that smashed into a school last week is allowing the actions of children to begin our healing, actions that are simple, pure, and unabashedly joyful. Sure, for those of us past middle school age, Christmas is bound to be a little sad this year, but the Divine Presence around us and within us is filled and flowing with life, exquisitely vibrant and eternal life. Look for signs of that life in these days and there’s a chance, a good chance, that we just might have a really grate crismis………….