There is great richness in the liturgical calendar during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This last week of the calendar year holds the Feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, and the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I am usually too tired and too busy during this week to fully appreciate these days until the end of the week. I invite you also to reflect on Stephen, the first Christian martyr who glories in the vision of Christ he receives during his execution (Acts 7:54-60). I invite you to consider John who also experienced a vision of Christ while exiled on Patmos (Revelation 1:9). I invite you to mourn for the children slaughtered by Herod (Matthew 2:16) and mourn with those who have lost children.
These Holy days serve to remind us that the Joy and Peace of the Christmas season is miraculous not because our circumstances are suddenly different. Instead the Joy and Peace of Christmas are miraculous because Jesus is with us in the midst of our trials as well as our triumphs.
This Christmas season, I was particularly aware of those who mourn the death of a loved one, those who spent Christmas in the hospital with a sick child, those who were unable to see loved ones, those who are more aware of what is missing than what is present, those who grieve the loss of health and independence. For many, it appears more fitting to name themselves “Forsaken” or “Desolate” as Isaiah describes Israel.
However, the miracle of the Incarnation reminds us that even in our most desperate times, Christ is with us. He came not to palaces and temples but to a humble stable. He lived not as royalty but as a refugee. He died not as a hero but as one accursed and despised. Indeed, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. When we named ourselves “Forsaken,” He named us as His delight. When we called ourselves “Desolate,” He called us His bride. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it!