I've got to admit, it hasn't been the easiest of Advent seasons.
It remains and probably always will be my favorite liturgical season. I love the sense of wonder and hushed anticipation that falls over my heart that first night we sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" at Mass.
We are waiting for the arrival of Love Himself, the very reason for our joy.
And yet, the darkness of this world has cast a somber shadow over that hope.
We know the world needs God. But then a young man succumbing to mental illness and rage takes the lives of so many little children.
We know that God provides. But then end of the year layoffs come, leaving many jobless just in time for the new year, with little or no time to prepare.
We know that God calls us very good. But then it seems like even the best of our actions with the purest intentions are tainted by pride and sin.
We know that God's ways are above our ways. But then someone barely older than you dies tragically only days before Christmas, leaving his family shattered.
Scandal, loss, death, destruction, violence, selfishness, sin ... it's everywhere. And in our grief at the state of our society, in the struggle to find answers, healthy dialogue dissolves into bitter arguments, hurt feelings, and empty political rhetoric.
It's enough to tempt even the most steadfast believer to ask, "Where is God?"
My heart has been heavy over the last few weeks, weighed down by both personal trials and grief for the world around me that is hurting so badly.
The other night I went to a little chapel in town barely the size of my bedroom, a property built and maintained by five generations of a local family. I admired their large Nativity scene that was set up along the entire front wall and simmered in thought, trying to make sense of all that's happened.
I came up with only one thought. It's not an answer to the "why" on everyone's mind, and it doesn't attempt to pinpoint God's will.
But what I do know is this: this is why the Christ Child came. This is the world to which he was given, a world as marred by devastation then as it is now.
In the midst of this senseless pain ... Jesus has come. And He is restoring the world, one broken heart at a time.
Jesus is our Emmanuel. He truly is "God with us."