When I was 8 months pregnant with Mack during Advent 2003 I read the Luke passages with renewed appreciation. Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John. After Mack was born I read these passages to the kids and we always got a good chuckle out of Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, who was silenced for the duration of her pregnancy for questioning the angel Gabriel and the “good news” the Angel had shared with him in the temple.
Now I hear these passages again, again with renewed appreciation. Now I read them as a Mom who has had to bury her beloved son. And, when we read earlier this Advent in Luke 2:35, Simeon said to Mary “a sword will pierce your own soul too” I also understood. The pain of losing Mack is real pain, and I am stabbed again by the reality of his death and it takes my breath away.
But, there is more to our story. And, in this mystery is hope and comfort.
I was listening to the Kings College, Cambridge, Lessons and Carols, as I do every year as I am cooking my sausage crêpes. Last Christmas Eve, Mack was dancing around the kitchen munching on my crêpes. This year, he is on ‘another shore’ whole, well, and very much alive, and someday I will join him there. The opening of the service today from the dean of the Cathedral:
Lastly let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom we for evermore are one.
And so this first Christmas without our sweet Mack, we share in the heaviness of the season with so many others who hurt, and yet celebrate the real joys of this life with our family and friends, and the promise of hope.
Reflection based on Luke 1:67-79 by Anthony Esolen
It’s good to celebrate the coming of our Lord, in the dark and hushed night. For we dwell in the valley of the shadow of death, all of us. Yet, the Lord is there, our shepherd, with his rod and staff, to give us strength. Hear the words of Zechariah, when his son John was born. The old man had been struck dumb by the angel, but now from out of those nine deep months of silence he speaks, he prophesies, “The dawn from on high shall break upon us!” He doesn’t say that a Savior will come. He says that a Savior has already come – God has already raised up a mighty Savior, born of the house of David! Jesus is already among us in the flesh, in the womb of Mary. The dawn is here, but not here yet. Perfect words for the vigil of Christmas. It is always the vigil of Christmas, isn’t it? We watch, like sentinels on the ramparts. We see the light. Christ is here, even in the flesh, in the sacrifice of the Mass, in this Body the Church, in the witness of the saints, and in all the graces God bestows upon us. He dwells among us, unto the end of time. And yet, always, the greater and more glorious dawn awaits.