Written on: January 6, 2020
During Advent, I visited a large hospital in Center City. There were many magnificently decorated trees throughout the building. One tree in particular caught my attention. It was a very large tree, adorned with a variety of over-sized ornaments, ribbons and nestled in its branches were placards with just one word in 4-inch high letters – BELIEVE. Now I have seen this word displayed in a variety of ways: on tee shirts promoting a favorite team, on the mantels of people’s homes, in commercials and on various TV programs. For some reason the word BELIEVE grabbed my attention, in the hospital on that day.
I left secretly wondering what the word BELIEVE meant in that setting. At the hospital, did it mean, we believe that all will be well and you will get better? Or if it might have a deeper meaning referencing belief in God and God’s way in our lives. Or that God is with you and in a way, God has your back.
During Advent we heard from a host of witnesses who told their stories of faith. They professed their belief in something they were hoping for but (as we all know) they would never have a chance to see; the poor were the first to believe and welcome their newborn king; Mary and Joseph and the shepherds were poor, ordinary folks; the distinguished foreigners came later witnessing to the reality that belief is also possible for Gentiles.
All of these participants,these witnesses, to the birth of the Savior represent the universal character of the invitation and the response to a call, whether it comes from an angel, an inspiration, a star or a dream which makes BELIEF possible for persons of all faiths and backgrounds.
In just these few days since Christmas, we have experienced a kind of scriptural gymnastics tying together the feasts of Christmas and Easter — the Paschal Mystery. We have time traveled to the tomb of Jesus, been with the Infant martyrs and with the first adult martyr, Stephen; with Simeon and Anna in the Temple; this past Sunday the Holy Family was fleeing for their lives into Egypt and today we are back at the stable as foreign guests arrive to greet a newborn king.
This whole host of people, on whose shoulders we stand, were faithful and BELIEVED but they did not receive what was promised in their lifetime. The beautiful line in Hebrews 11 came to mind: “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for or prove the existence of realities that at present remain unseen.” Our ancestors in the faith have brought us to this day.
We know Jesus, the fullness of what they were hoping for, and we now are entrusted with the responsibility of handing on the faith to BELIEVE!
The psalm refrain, “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!” is a promise that we can hope for but we do not yet see. This will happen but perhaps not in our lifetime. Do we have the faith and hope to believe that it will indeed come true? I pray that like our ancestors in the faith, we will BELIEVE and hold fast to this dream and do our part to make it come true.
The distinguished foreigners who BELIEVED and visited Jesus after his birth, bore gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know that the three gifts have a spiritual meaning: gold, the symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) the symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) the symbol of death. … A simpler more generalized description might be that gold symbolizes virtue, frankincense symbolizes prayer, and myrrh symbolizes suffering.
We, who have the good fortune to know more of this story, know that this God Child, who was to be like us in every respect, would experience what we experience; virtue, prayer and suffering. He would learn as we learn, in fragmentary ways who he was in his fullness and who he was to be for all nations to adore.
Let us pray to strengthen our own faith and belief in this God-Man who came to save. Make us true stewards of your grace to trust revelations we experience that change our hearts and minds, and hopefully our country and world.
Isaiah 60:1-4 Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2
Mary Elizabeth Looby, GNSH
Feature photo: Ran Berkovich/Unsplash