Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a
"So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others." Luke 1:25
There are times in our lives when our hopes dreams seem so unattainable that we just give up on them. Not only do we tend to give up on them, but we may also give up on life.
When we are young and when we are starting out, our hope and dreams are a big part of how we live our lives. They shape our decisions and they move us in the direction that will help us realize them. We live life with enthusiasm and we may even begin to think that we are in charge. Our desire to realize our dreams is so strong that we are sure that we can overcome any obstacle that gets in our way.
With time, we tend to lose heart. We see the window of opportunity closing. Those who are more optimistic will not give up hope until the very last minute, until the window is completely shut. Those who are more pessimistic will lose hope way before the window closes. But ultimately, both kinds of people are faced with the same situation: hopes and dreams that once were the reason for living, for getting up in the morning are now dashed and life becomes less meaningful.
In today’s Mass, as we come to the last few days before Christmas Day, we are privileged to get a glimpse into the lives of two families who long had given up on their hopes and dreams. Two women, born centuries apart, married with the hope of having a family. They both discovered that they were barren. Both were married to men of prayer. And both allowed God to enter fully into their lives and turn their lives upside down. They ultimately had their hopes and dreams fulfilled, but these hopes and dreams were fulfilled beyond their wildest expectations. Their children were to have key roles in God’s Plan of Salvation.
I remember my Christmas expectations as a child, wishing for things that were way beyond my parent’s means. Some gifts we got on Christmas were "community gifts," like the football for the boys, and other gifts were very practical, like clothes. Yet, the greatest gift of all was being together, visiting family and eating our simple holiday meal with great pleasure. There was no sense of disgrace or shame in all of this. God was always there making things much better than what we could ever make them. Our hopes and dreams on Christmas morning were never fully fulfilled, but God was always there, and that’s what counted.
Advent is a time of being completely open to God’s way of doing things. While we may sincerely believe that our way of doing things will truly make us happy, God’s ways will not just make us happy but transform us into becoming the Children of God. Somewhere along the line we need to let go of our own small hopes and dreams and allow God’s Hopes and Dreams to transform us, our lives and our world.
Christmas is about believing that nothing is impossible with God!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.