The Colors of Christmas

By Jim Tune

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34, 35).

A popular Roman Catholic devotion holds that Mary suffered seven sorrows: Simeon’s prophecy that her heart would be pierced, her flight to Egypt that Jesus might escape the infanticide, the anxious days in Jerusalem when she thought she had lost Jesus, walking with Jesus on the road to the cross, watching her precious Son’s execution, the piercing of Jesus’ side and his descent from the cross, and the placement of her Son’s body into a cold tomb.

Mary’s life could not have been an easy one. At Jesus’ crucifixion, I can imagine her echoing the words of Louis Gluck from “Matins,” a collection of seven poems from her book The Wild Iris: “Unreachable father, . . . What is my heart to you that you must break it over and over? . . . Practice on something else.”

It is Advent—a time of waiting in hope for deliverance . . . a time of waiting for the end of our despair.

In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of gray, blue, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange—the brilliant colors.

Mary’s soul knew all too well about shades of gray, blue, and black. We prefer the brilliant colors. And dec21_tune_jnsurely Mary also experienced the heights of joy. Mary was young, poor, and female—characteristics that would have disqualified her for useful service by religious insiders. But Mary found favor in the eyes of God, experiencing the wonder of the incarnation in a way that no one else had, saying, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46, 47). This unquestionably was a moment of white, red, and orange. Yet that same favored soul was also sword-pierced.

Let us be mindful of those who are grieving and sorrowful as we revel in our festivities. Sometimes the hurting ones go underground at Christmas, hiding their grief from others. Easily forgotten, they slip into hiddeness and isolation. Moore wisely reflects: “Hiding the dark places results in a loss of soul; speaking for them and from them offers a way toward genuine community and intimacy.”

Darkness comes, still we sing: “Yet in the dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.” Deliverance has come, even as we await the end of our despair.

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