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The God of Hope Comes Even in the Darkness


The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9–11
 
Fr. Joseph Healy, a Maryknoll missioner, tells this story in his book, Once Upon a Time in Africa.
 
It was the night before Christmas in Africa, and an eight-year-old-boy from Ghana was devastated because his village had been destroyed by the so-called army of liberation. He felt none of the usual joy and anticipation of the season. His parents had been killed, and many of his friends were kidnapped and never returned.
 
In years past, Christmas in his village had always been a joyous festival with music, houses decorated with paper ornaments created by the children, roads filled with people visiting friends and relatives, and plentiful food and drink. The little boy wondered how Christmas could come without his parents and his village. How could he celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace since he had not known any peace, only war and suffering?
 
As the boy continued to think about Christmases past and about the present suffering, he heard the horn of a car. It was a group of travelers who had taken a detour through his village, because the bridge over the river had been destroyed. They said it was Christmas Eve, and they were on their way to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. They shared their food with the villagers and helped build a fire in the marketplace to keep the people warm.
 
The young boy’s oldest sister was pregnant. She was still in shock and had not spoken since she and her brother escaped the soldiers. She went into labor, and villagers and visitors removed their shirts to make a bed for her next to the fire. She gave birth to a beautiful boy. War or no war, they danced and sang Christmas carols until dawn. When the young mother was asked what she would name the baby, she spoke for the first time since the village had been destroyed. She said, “His name is Gye Nyame,” which means “except God I fear none.” And they celebrated Christmas that night. Christmas had come, in the midst of their suffering and despair, with the birth of the boy’s nephew. This was their hope. Christmas always comes—despite all circumstances. Christ is among us and continues to come into our darkest moments to bring light and hope to our wounded hearts and broken world.
 
Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas season and a year filled with the hope of Christ!
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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