BY LENA CHAPIN | December 21, 2020
Sunday’s Readings – Fourth Sunday of Advent

As I write messages in my Christmas cards this year, I have grappled with words. This was an atrocious year. How do I express holiday cheer amongst the grim realities of 2020? Why should I sit safely in my home writing Christmas cards when millions of people around the world are suffering?  The lights, decorations, and purchasing of presents felt, at first, like a glittering distraction from the death and despair of so many. Gaudete Sunday felt empty and I cannot bring myself to write “Joy to the World” because I just don’t feel it. 

But the readings this Sunday caused me to pause and reflect on the hope, the waiting, of Advent, and even of Christmas, rather than the joy. 

The goodness of the Lord

This year at Ignatian Solidarity Network we have reflected on the theme of “prophetic resilience,” a theme that was determined before the COVID pandemic, this year’s natural disasters, and the elevated racial unrest. 

There isn’t any joy in this Sunday’s readings, but there’s a whole lot of prophetic resilience. From Nathan, assistant to David, to the apostle Paul and Mary the Mother of God, everyone was facing great challenge. In these times of trouble, they weren’t talking about joy. They weren’t necessarily experiencing joy, but they were experiencing the goodness, steadfastness, and promises of God. So they persisted prophetically and resiliently. 

“For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord” read this Sunday’s psalm. Now I’m clearly not the king of Israel, an original apostle, or the mother of Christ, but I felt this. I might not be able to rejoice, but I am reminded that my hope and faith in the Lord remains resilient. And as an activist and choir member, song is where I turn to express my emotions when words just won’t cut it. 

In despair, in darkness, “for ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” When another friend loses their job or has a family member come down with COVID—when I feel at a loss for words—”for ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Not forever. But for ever. That is prophetic resilience moving to hope and moving to joy. For ever—through a pandemic, through loneliness, through waiting. Into relief, community, celebration, and eventually joy “for ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” I’m still working through Christmas cards (they will not arrive on time) but now the words “Merry Christmas” have regained the song of the goodness of the Lord and I’m happy to be singing.

5 replies
  1. Avatar
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    This Advent has been quieter in Church and in the society at large. We have moments to concentrate on the Advent readings. We have silent moments to pray for our family, those in need of prayers, those who work in the medical field. It seems I am in direct contact with them and God to whom I bring my pleas. My 6 year old granddaughter has that resilience that the Scriptures call for. She plays a game of thanksgiving with me. She starts with something she is thankful for and I add something I am thankful for and we continue the litany. We are thankful for funny things, for pretty things, for useful things and the presents Santa will bring at Christmas. Then she thinks of the pandemic and wants the homeless to have something they need, those who are in prison, those who don’t have anyone to be with and that her baby sister will get the doll that she wants. There is a goodness and quiet about this Advent and we say: Come Lord Jesus.

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  2. Avatar
    Val Keller says:

    Christmas begins December 24 night and goes through the 12 days to January 6th Epiphany so your cards and mine have lots of time to travel and arrive.
    Resilience of faith, love and charity is still Alive and well in our lives and the world.
    And so we sing songs of joy and glory.

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  3. Avatar
    Cathe SHOULBERG, RSM says:

    Now, more than ever, we need Light and Joy – it is just not so easy to find this year!
    I loved your article – I’ve found in my darkest moments, when I’m honest with God, light shines for me. I’m so grateful for those moments – truly light dispels the darkness – looking with hope to 2021!
    Thank you!

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  4. Avatar
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    More and more as we approach the Incarnation, we sing the goodness of the Lord. “Each day is a gift from God” an opportunity to bring His mercy and goodness to others. I am in prayerful awe of the medical workers who gave their lives for others in order to assist all they could with the pain of the Covid virus. They gave their life for their friends, family, strangers, people on the same path, all who they met during the day. Over and over, they attended to the needs of others while attempting to protect themselves and all others. Bless them Lord and hold them in the warm embrace of your Love. May the God of the Incarnation bring joy and peace to the families who are left without these holy men and women be sustained by His love, goodness, kindness and peace. May we all look for ways we can assist them in their healing.

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