I’ve spent a lot of time this fall holding babies. Now I had never really been a baby person; new babies used to frighten me because of their fragility and vulnerability. One of the moments when this first began to change was two years ago when I was holding another baby on Christmas eve and it dawned on me all of a sudden what the incarnation really meant. Yes, babies are small and dependent. God’s choice to enter this world as a vulnerable little child is awe-inspiring proof of how much God trusts us. No matter how many times we, as God’s people, have broken our side of our covenant, our Lord continues to have faith in us.
This changed the way I celebrate Christmas and gave me a greater sense of reverence every holiday season.
Last month I heard a beautiful homily. In this homily the priest spoke about a sermon that St. Augustine delivered centuries ago entitled, “From Anxiety to Alleluia”. This fall, for a number of reasons, I experienced great anxiety for the first time and it really scared me. It forced me to make the conscious choice to trust in God at a time when I didn’t know if I could.
St. Augustine writes, “Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security…Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. So let us sing alleluia, even here on earth.”
The Advent season is about expectation, about hope, about waiting, and about cultivating the virtue of patience. That’s such a cool thing! When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, she didn’t understand what God had planned for her or the magnitude of her role in the world’s salvation. She didn’t know what her future would look like, and yet, she chose to PRAISE HIM; to choose Alleluia despite Anxiety. She praised God’s fidelity even though she had every right to feel anxious, scared, and to say no.
Isn’t this the same for us? Our lives are so often a mystery. God’s will and God’s timing are a mystery. Yet we can choose to praise and thank him for the wonderful things that he has in store for us before we ever see it pan out.
God had no reason to trust humanity enough to come as a vulnerable little child. But if we look through scripture we see that we have every reason to trust God; a God who has always made good on his covenant. And as such, if he trusted us who are so untrustworthy, how much more can we trust HE WHO IS LOVE this holiday season?
“Let us make a Christmas in our heart every day. Let us become like little children…my eternal prayer: ‘Lord give me the heart of a child and the courage to live it out as an adult.’ “ –Catherine Doherty
No matter what holiday stress you have on your heart right now, how long your to-do list is or the loss and grief you may be faced with, will you join me in asking for the grace to trust in God and in joyous expectation, move from anxiety to alleluia on Christmas Day?
From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop
“Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security. Why do we now live in anxiety? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when I read: Is not man’s life on earth a time of trial? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when the words still ring in my ears: Watch and pray that you will not be put to the test? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when there are so many temptations here below that prayer itself reminds us of them, when we say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us? Every day we make out petitions, every day we sin. Do you want me to feel secure when I am daily asking pardon for my sins, and requesting help in time of trial? Because of my past sins I pray: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and then, because of the perils still before me, I immediately go on to add: Lead us not into temptation. How can all be well with people who are crying out with me: Deliver us from evil? And yet, brothers, while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.
Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. So let us sing alleluia, even here on earth. Man is still a debtor, but God is faithful. Scripture does not say that he will not allow you to be tried, but that he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. Whatever the trial, he will see your through it safely, and so enable you to endure. You have entered upon a time of trial but you will come to no harm – God’s help will bring you through it safely. You are like a piece of pottery, shaped by instruction, fired by tribulation. When you are put into the oven therefore, keep your thoughts on the time when you will be taken out again; for God is faithful, and he will guard both your going in and your coming out.
But in the next life, when this body of ours has become immortal and incorruptible, then all trials will be over. Your body is indeed dead, and why? Because of sin. Nevertheless, your spirit lives, because you have been justified. Are we to leave our dead bodies behind then? By no means. Listen to the words of holy Scripture: If the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your own mortal bodies. At present your body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.
O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity! We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live for ever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.
So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do – sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice. If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living. Sing then, but keep going.”