An Epiphany at Advent


Every time Jesus opened his mouth to speak a kind word, to teach, to heal, or to laugh, he took his life in his hands. He was a thinker, a teacher of wisdom, an amazing man with a bright and light heart. So of course he was always in trouble. He did not play by the book--Roman or Jewish. He was an iconoclast, a happy freak who, like Buddah, believed life was good, good food was good, being healed was good, and loving was good. He was alone on the road, to be sure.

The Good News was the good news and the happy news, but his preaching it meant his taking his life in his hands.

And his mother knew it. Perhaps the nails that would someday rip the tender flesh and delicate bones of her son's hands were never far from his mind. Perhaps that's why she raised him to realize the wellspring of joy in his own heart.

Tonight, as I watched Mary Chamiec-Case of Newtown, Connecticut, teach my daughter's choir how to sign the carol "Silent Night," the loneliness of Jesus' life, the rarity of his commitment to the ones he loved, became clear to me. The line "Christ our savior is born" rings in my ears every year, but the signed words drove home to me the point that Jesus' life is about completely giving a complete love. He goes the whole road. This truth is his gift to us.

The sign for "Christ" is made by pointing to the palm of each hand with the middle finger of the other to indicate the piercing of the nails. In the signed version of the song, "born" comes next as the right hand and forearm extend forward from beneath the left. Birth and death merge, and the brevity of life, along with the singleness and completeness of purpose, merge.

Here's the video of Mary teaching the Choristers of St. John's Parish in Waterbury, Connecticut, how to share that message.

P.S. Notice, too, how the signed lyrics translate grace as heaven on earth. The upward moving arms that indicate heaven bring their dance to an earthly plain and cover everything.

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