From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Christmas brings Good News

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Dec. 19, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

This year I really need Christmas. I don’t mean the tree, the gifts and the holiday cheer. My heart yearns for the real thing.

The days seem dimmer than other winters I remember. Dark mornings fade into days so pale I need the lights turned on even at noon. Outside my window, frozen sycamore leaves refuse to let go of their branches, as if that will stave off their death. A fog of lethargy seeps through my hours, tugging at my soul. I reach for my missal, and turn to the Christmas Eve readings.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

A friend calls. She’s worried and wants to talk about her 12-year-old daughter. For the second time in two weeks, the other girls have ostracized the girl in her class. Left out. Uninvited.

“Why are girls so mean?” she asks. I hear the pain in her voice, but I don’t have an answer. “And at Catholic school, too. Last night she cried herself to sleep. I wish I could protect her, but all I can do is tell her I love her.”

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

My husband comes home from work in a somber mood. He’s spoken with a co-worker and good friend who’s recuperating from his latest bout of radiation. It’s throat cancer. The man is trying to get used to eating through a tube in his stomach, but hoping it will be temporary.

In the last four weeks, we’ve heard the bad news about cancer from four other friends. Is it because we’re middle-aged now, I wonder, that the disease seems so common among those we know? One of the patients is a child. Doctors hope she has a good chance because they caught it early.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The woman tries to keep her emotion from spilling out in this parish meeting, but her hands gesture her pain. The pitch of her voice rises in anger. She tells how the priest, a counselor she went to for help in college, sexually abused her. How administrators refused to credit her story, made her feel she was to blame. How she’s tried to forgive and forget. But can’t.

“People ask me if I’m going to sue the church,” she says. “What good would that do? A million dollars couldn’t bring back all I’ve lost.”

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The steady beat, like marching feet, moves our nation toward war. The rhetoric swells, then dips, then swoops again, higher than before. A line is drawn dividing good from evil, as if it were so clear. Fingers point at enemies and we give in to fear.

Christmas seems a long way off. I wait and scan the night for one shining star. I’m tempted to run from the dark, lose myself in the fun of shopping, the glitter of lights and tinsel, the taste of goodies.

But I need something real this Christmas. I need the faith of Mary, the wonder of the shepherds, the promise of the angels.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

A gift given in love is never taken back. The gift of God’s Son, given 2,000 years ago remains present even now, until the end of time.

Here in the dark, I’m hanging on to that assurance. I’m hungering for that hope of transformation. I’m counting, more than ever, on Christmas.

© 2002, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a freelance and children’s writer living in Spokane with her husband and three children.)

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