This week the “bomb cyclone” has covered the Bay Area with thick clouds, strong winds, and relentless rains. In the first reading for the feast of Epiphany, the prophet Isaiah describes a similar scene: “Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” But then the prophet proclaims not just a break in those clouds but how the people will receive a great light that will bathe them in hope and peace and forgiveness. The Epiphany story proclaims that this radiant dawn of God’s love is not just for a chosen few but for all. The journey of the Magi is our journey. Epiphany encourages us to pause and consider what is the guiding light of our lives. God continues to shine, though the thick clouds may block the Divine Presence from our sight at times. The Magi show us how to trust not only in the light that guides our journey but also in the power of our dreams.
Advent has always been one of my favorite seasons because it speaks of hope, expectation, and anticipation as we approach Christmas. But since 2010, when my sister Mary died on the First Sunday of Advent, I also associate this season of hope with grief. This is probably how Joseph, engaged to Mary, must have felt after finding out Mary was pregnant, and he knew he wasn’t the father. But when Joseph awoke from his dream, he did as the angel told him and took Mary into his home. An important question to ask ourselves this last week before Christmas is in the rush and crush of the season, are we awake or asleep? The great challenge as Advent people is how, even in our grief, we are called to stay awake and take “God with us” into our homes, our hearts, our communities, and our world.
On this Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we are invited to Rejoice! And yet when we look at the landscape of our world, there is not much to be joyful about these days. But our readings today show us how to live in joyful hope even when our world seems to be falling apart. The prophet Isaiah envisions a parched land bursting with new life as the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute sing, and the lame dance. Paul gives us an image of joyful hope in the farmer patiently awaiting the harvest. And even John the Baptist, sitting in a prison cell, sends his disciples to hear the new prophet, Jesus, and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus invites the disciples to look around and see for themselves how the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled. Our challenge today is to practice living with joyful hope. We do this by embracing all that we are, the good and the bad, in us and in our world, and knowing that God still beats and breathes within us. God still dreams in us, still believes in us, and still loves us.