By Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Isaiah 9:1-6 | Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13 | Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-4
The promise can no longer be contained. Every day this week a messenger arrived “bearing glad tidings.”
Gabriel walked into the Holy of Holies and announced good news to Zechariah and Elizabeth: “Joy and gladness will be yours … in these days God is acting on your behalf.” An angel entered the dream of Joseph and whispered, “Do not fear … you shall call him Emmanuel … God is with us.” And Mary is greeted with words that praise and comfort: “Rejoice O highly favored daughter! Blessed are you among women.” Immediately and in haste she carried the message into the countryside inviting the entire universe to a festive procession.
One has an image of an angelic choir on its feet rushing toward earth leading the way to Bethlehem, then the poor shepherds, dressed in rough sheepskin clothes, still drowsy, still dazzled by the light, still bewildered by the music, the voices, that announced “Peace on earth.” Next the Magi, arrayed in splendid robes, faces aglow, bearing humble gifts; and behind the seekers come travelers of every nation, advancing on horseback or on foot, followed by their camels, dogs and oxen.
If you can imagine this procession of creation, you can also hear the song that envelops the earth as these pilgrims make their way toward Bethlehem. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King.”
Do you hear that song as you journey towards the stable? Do you believe it?
People on their feet, walking toward a promise, is revolutionary. People on their feet, walking toward a promise, can topple empires. People on their feet, walking toward a promise, can create a vision of the Promised Land. Processions are like that.
Remember Gandhi’s Salt March, the small cadre that swelled into a national nonviolent army marching for freedom. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring God’s peace. Remember the euphoric, of Solidarity in Poland, Lech Walesa carried on the shoulders of the working poor, the throngs singing in the city streets. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring God’s peace. Recall the day of victory when the Berlin Wall toppled. Hear the church bells ringing, see the people embracing and dancing in the streets. How beautiful are the feet pf those who bring God’s peace.
And stay in touch with today, with the Christmas story. It is a wonderful mystery marking 2000 years of beautiful feet walking the Judean hillsides, walking toward the Star of Bethlehem, the promise of peace.
But, you may argue, tomorrow Herod begins the slaughter of innocent and already the shadow of a cross looms in the distance. Or in time the “little people” are crushed again. Or despite millions of people for peace nothing changes. It only worsens.
Yes. Yet for one second in time everyone has a taste of new beginnings, new possibilities, new life. It is Christmas. For a moment the Kingdom is come.
And who knows — in the 60’s Mama Cass belted out the promise, “There’s a new world coming and it’s just around the bend.” We believers in the Christmas message would have to agree around the bend is always a surprise; around the bend could be a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, whose name is PRINCE OF PEACE. And there’s only one way to find out — keep following the Star of Bethlehem.
It is this promise, this hope we call Christmas that will feed the flame within us and lighten the path for the next generation.
This reflection is from Journey of Hope and Grace: Advent 1990, by Monika Hellwig and Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA and a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.