Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
The Look of God
"Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high." Luke 1:78
Camping in the high mountains the temperature can be quite cold, even down to freezing. In the morning before I get up I try to wait in my bedroll till the sun rises to warm myself by this giant thermonuclear furnace. On this eve of Christmas we anxiously await the sunrise, the "anatolae," of Christ. It is He who is the warmth and life of our lives in the cold atmosphere of the world in which we live.
Today’s first reading speaks of the tender mercy of our God coming to us as the dawn. This is a beautiful passage in the New Testament but it is very hard to translate correctly into English. The Greek New Testament word for tender is splagchnon, which means our innards, our bowels, our intestines. It probably is the strongest word in the Greek New Testament for compassion, care, kindheartedness. It can refer to a mother’s love for her baby. The warmth and kindness of God will shine on us in the Christ child.
Another word that is challenging to translate is the word visit. The word in Greek is episkeptomai. This word means to look at someone intensely. Rather than saying God’s compassion is visiting us, we say His love and mercy is staring at us. This sunrise of God’s warmth is gazing at us. It is the look of God. We think of the famous line in the movie Casablanca: "Here’s looking at you, kid". This look of God changed our world.
On this Christmas Eve we pray God will continue to gaze lovingly at this old world of ours. This wonderful loving look brought his Son in human flesh and blood to us. We often ask a friend to "look in" on someone we love to make sure they are OK. Our God is "looking in" on us in an astonishing way this Christmas!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky