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Welcome Emmanuel: An Advent and Christmas Reflection

Erin Ramsey-Tooher was part of a small group of friends who helped discern the mission of our ministry in South Boston. Over the course of a year of shared prayer and conversation, Erin helped us hear the call to faithfully respond to the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Her reflection, although emerging from her cherished experiences in another place and time, speak to the universal longing in the hearts of all people and to the miracle of God’s presence through our love and compassion for others.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

After I graduated from college, I spent two and a half years serving at a project called The Farm of the Child in rural Honduras. Honduras is an amazingly beautiful country. It is also one of the poorest countries in Central America and is plagued by political corruption, drug trafficking, and perhaps worst of all, extreme violence. In 2011, Honduras was named the murder capital of the world. In Honduras, one out of every fifty men will be murdered before he turns 31.


Honduras is not the “holy mountain” we hear described Isaiah in our Advent reading. Each Advent, I find myself struck by the words of the song we so often sing – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. During my time in Honduras, the words to this hymn became a fervent prayer for me.


Come. Please come. This broken world needs you. Come quickly. Come now.


A young boy is dropped off at the front gates of our orphanage by the police. Little is known about him except that he had been living on the streets of a nearby town. It is now our job to provide a home for him, to raise him, to love him.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Come quickly. Come now.


I go to one of my student’s homes to find out why she has been out of school for the past week. She is eleven. I find out that her whole family has malaria, and because she is the only girl in the family, it is her job to care for them, to cook and clean and wash their clothes for them.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Come quickly. Come now.


One of the teenagers in our program tells me about her life before she came to our project. There was rarely enough food to go around. She and her siblings could not go to school because they didn’t have notebooks, and you can’t go to school if you don’t have notebooks. Her mother did not often have milk for her baby sister, so she gave her sugar water instead. The baby was so small and malnourished that when she arrived at the project, no one knew if she would live or die.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Come quickly. Come now.


The boy grows. He learns to read by following along in the prayer books we use each day at morning prayer. He learns the songs we sing each day by heart. He sings fiercely. He is generous and strong and good and brave.


Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel.


My student manages to pass the year. She is bright and helpful and kind and full of laughter. One day she arrives to my classroom with a giant bag of mangos she climbed a tree to pick for me. “Take them, teacher,” she commands. “They’re for you.” She is light in my days.


Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel.


A neighbor invites me to come and eat lunch at her home. I arrive and quickly realize that she has killed one of her prized chickens for us to eat that day. It is an incredible act of generosity. She sends her youngest child with a 40-lempira bill to buy a 3-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. We break bread. There is more than enough.


Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel.


I believe that Emmanuel has indeed come to us, is born endlessly in countless ways, and that we must look for the light that gives us hope in the vision we hear of in the scriptures – a vision of justice and peace and flourishing. The prophet Habakkuk tells us that “the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays… wait for it.”

Can we hold onto the vision? Can we hold it when our hearts are broken – by Syria, Standing Rock, Ohio State, and the list goes on… or by the pain of violence, grief and hurt in our own homes, our own communities? This season, I pray that our hearts might open to both the world’s pain and its joy in equal measure; that we may see the world’s darkness and be moved, yet never overcome by it; that we may trust in the compassionate presence of the God who is Emmanuel, a God ever with us. Let us place our hope in the vision which still has its time, and presses on to fulfillment. It will not disappoint. And yet, if it delays… we will wait for it.

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The Good Samaritan Ministry

SBS Catholic Collaborative

P.O. Box 270799

South Boston, MA 02127

617-268-8100

deaconpaulkline@gmail.com

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