By Sister Diane Guerin
The cries of a newborn babe shatter the quiet of the night. A bright star dispels the darkness. Voices of angels fill the air. “Glory to God in the highest and peace on Earth to people of good will,” echoes in the crystal-clear sky. The once still night is still no more. Into this world, the Word became flesh, Jesus was born and chose to dwell among us.
War and divisions existed; people were excluded based on class, race and ethnic identity; the poor and disenfranchised were pushed to the margins and ignored. This Messiah chose to be born centuries ago into a fractured world not unlike our own.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shown. (Is. 9:2)
In the days to come…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shallthey train for war again. (Is. 2:1–5)
… the desert and the parched land will exalt; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. (Is. 35:1–2)
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. (Is. 35:5–6)
The people found hope in the words of the prophet Isaiah and waited in expectation for the promised Messiah.
Some envisioned a warrior or a king who would attack the oppressive structures and unjust systems. Others waited, believing in the promises, but unclear what shape their fulfillment would take. It is little wonder that many were astounded when Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Son of God, the one sent to heal the wounds of division, violence and injustice. Jesus’ welcoming, peaceful, nonviolent presence was incomprehensible to many.
We often speak of “teachable moments.” Jesus perfected that concept in all that he did. Healing the broken, whether in body or soul, confronting the Pharisees with truth, teaching his apostles with patience, acknowledging the women he met, greeting and welcoming all. Every action was non-judgmental, nonviolent, and inclusive.
We share many of the same concerns as those in Jesus’ time. Injustice, racism, war and exclusion fill our news. We may find ourselves “walking in the shadow of darkness” and struggling to see the light. Our faith tells us that the “eyes of the blind will be opened” and that in time the “parched land will exalt.”
We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of inaction. The Incarnation, God dwelling among us, happens each day. We witness it in our families, our ministries, our political systems and within ourselves. If we believe in the indwelling of God, then there is no choice but to respond. Finding the inner strength and courage to find nonviolent solutions is the challenge in each situation.
In Advent, we, too, wait in joyful hope. What is our expectation? Do we welcome Jesus as a Prophet of Nonviolence? How are we, who profess in our Critical Concern of nonviolence, challenged to live this commitment each day? How do our choices and interactions witness to our belief in the transformative power of nonviolence?
On the night of Jesus’ birth, the stillness of the night was transformed with songs of joy, and the world was changed forever. That night, “the word became flesh” and chose to “dwell among us.” Each day this reality is enfleshed in us and in those around us. Revealing this presence, embracing its invitation and peacefully responding to its call is our mandate. The strength of our belief, the resiliency of our hope beckons us forward to help shape a new world that envisions peace and nonviolence as a real possibility. We rejoice with grateful hearts.