The longest night has come to an end.
Things will not be easy from here on. We’ve reached the dead of winter, in this hemisphere. Everything will be cold and dark for some time. We won’t begin to notice how the world is turning to spring for a month or so. But the longest night really is over. All that’s left is to believe until that promise is fulfilled.
It takes great faith to believe in morning, when it is night.
It takes faith and hope beyond all human ability, to believe that light will come when it is dark.
It is a movement of the Holy Spirit, to be able to profess light when you walk in darkness.
No one can say “soon, the night will end,” except by the Holy Spirit.
No one can say “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace,” until the Angel of the Lord has opened his mouth.
In the late spring, when the light was nearly ready to start dying out out but seemed like it would last forever, a young woman who was pregnant out of wedlock journeyed to visit her cousin. Her cousin, Elizabeth, was an important person, the wife of a priest; she, herself, Miriam, was nobody, and she appeared to be disgracefully sinful, but she wasn’t. Elizabeth was pregnant for the first time, late in life– at last, the disgrace of a long life of barrenness removed by a baby. Miriam was pregnant for the first time, young, under mysterious circumstances and not by her betrothed: the baby was a disgrace, in the eyes of the world. Miriam was in danger because of what had happened– thankfully, her betrothed was a just man, and believed what she and the angel had told him. But she wasn’t a respectable person, not in the eyes of the world. It would have been well within her rights for Elizabeth to not receive such a woman at all.
And yet, Elizabeth greeted Miriam like royalty. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me!”
And Miriam was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was already filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had flooded into her until she became pregnant with God Himself. But the Holy Spirit is infinite, and can always flood a person more. At that moment, the Holy Spirit flooded Miriam even more.
And she prophesied that the light would come back. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in my saving God. For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant: from this day all generations shall call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. His mercy is on them that fear him, in every generation. He has shown the strength of His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has received Israel His servant; He has remembered His promise of mercy. As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.”Now, it is the dead of winter, the darkest time of the year.
Miriam is journeying with her husband. They are going from Nazareth, out of which nothing good can come, to Bethlehem, least of Judah’s cities.
No one will receive them.
No one wants them.
They are a nuisance and a disgrace, a poor couple with a mysterious child, members of a conquered race doing the bidding of their conquerors.
Her time is very close.
All the world sees is darkness.
All Holy Joseph sees is darkness. The baby is completely hidden from him– it looks like a lump that has grown bigger and bigger and slowly overtaken the body of the woman who was promised to him but who he’s not supposed to touch. Sometimes, toward the end of gestation, he can see the lump move, but it doesn’t look like a human baby, let alone like the work of the Holy Spirit. It looks like something else entirely– like a stretched abdomen, like swollen feet and ankles, like Miriam exhausted and sick and hungry, like the neighbors’ gossip, like a worry for the future.
Why did he believe the light is coming? Because he was a just man who didn’t want Miriam to be harmed, so he chose to believe? Because he dreamed of an angel telling him not to be afraid to take her into his home, and it just felt right? It’s more than that. He, in his own way, is filled with the Holy Spirit. And he believes that the light will come.
All Miriam sees is darkness.
The Baby– that mysterious Baby who is Light from Light but isn’t visible yet– is pressing against her guts, straining her bladder and her stomach. She can feel her diaphragm pressing down on the baby’s feet every time she takes a breath. She can feel His head snug against her spine; when He moves, she can feel His face rub on the inside of her back. Just as mothers have borne that mystery since the beginning of time, Miriam bears the mystery. But she cannot see Him yet.
She believes, by the Holy Spirit, that the light will come.
All Christ Himself sees is darkness, for He has already come to earth, to be one with our darkness. He is in the dark. The time of dark is almost over, nearly done. He will soon come forth from the womb and experience the love that comes from the Father and fills creation, for the first time not as He always has in Heaven but as His beloved creatures were meant to do– through the touch and the voices and the gaze of a human family. For now, He sees nothing but darkness, feels nothing but Miriam’s heartbeat and the encroaching pressure of her organs. Once in awhile, a contraction– her body getting ready for labor. The Sun of Justice waits in darkness, crushed and jostled by His own creation. Not for the last time.
He is God and can only believe rightly. He is Consubstantial with the Father, worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But He has also become a human baby, crushed in the dark of a third trimester womb.
He who is Light, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit, inseparable from the Holy Spirit, believes the light will come.
The longest night of the year has come to an end.
All that’s left is to believe until the promise is fulfilled.
(image via Pixabay)
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