“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” Luke 1:13
As Christmas Day draws near, the Church invites us to tap into our deepest hopes for new life. Today’s Scripture thrusts us into the lives of two families that had remained faithful to God. Both longed to have children. One had not given up hope, and the other had resigned itself to being childless.
The human heart has longings and desires that may never be realized. When we are young, we long to be older and we long to be “someone.” We look at the things that may make us happy, successful and secure, like a fulfilling career, a family and a peaceful community. When some of these longings are lacking, it seems that our life is unfulfilled, no matter how good everything else is.
In our Mass readings for today, we have the tale of two families. Both families seemed to have good lives. Both families were faithful to God. In fact, Zechariah was a priest with privileges. He was chosen to enter the Sanctuary of the temple and burn incense. But in both families, there was one thing lacking: children. That longing for children had never left them, as good as their lives were.
Then God broke into their lives. Once God brought new life into their world, their lives changed. God’s gift to them came with responsibilities. For so many of us, the experience of God transforms our lives. We become more aware of our frailties and much more aware of God’s love.
In our Christmas preparations, it is very easy to lose touch with our deepest longings and our greatest desires. We become overwhelmed with the superficial wrapping of the Christmas season. But every so often, we stop to take a deep breath and enjoy a quiet moment. It is then that we allow the unfilled longings to come to the front. And it is precisely there, where we encounter God. This is when new life happens! This is when we experience Christmas.
May we never be so busy this Christmas that we don’t recognize when God answers our deepest longings!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.