Let us continue our Advent reflections on the theme of “Word”. The Church has historically viewed Advent as a penitential season, reminding us of our great need of redemption from lives of futility and darkness. Although God’s Word is life giving and creative, Scripture paints an unflinchingly realistic picture of human nature, and confronts us with our deceptive hearts and lying tongues. In short, left to ourselves, we do not flourish as human beings in a life of love of God and neighbor, but fall into a life of sin and discord. One of the earliest stories in the Bible is that of the tower of Babel, where our words are seen as arrogant and divisive, separating us in their plurality. In our sinful state, we experience God’s Word as judgment. We experience that Word as Law, limiting our freedom and nagging our consciences as we see how we fail to live up to what we know we should do.
In such a state, our words bring death instead of life: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”(James 3:8). How often are our words used to criticize and tear down? Slander, gossip, and cutting words too easily fill our private and public lives. If you have any doubt, just stop and listen for a while. Yet, as we look to celebrate the feast of the Christ Child, we see that God has not given up on us. In Christ He speaks a healing Word that is the only way we obtain release from His judging Word. That is the Good News of the Gospel. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed for his disciples, that they might be one as He and the Father are One, that the world may know that the Father has sent His Son. God wants to bring our discordant words into accord with his Word, and free us from his judging Word through that seemingly God-forsaken transaction between Father and Son that took place on the cross. That is the completion of what He started on that first Christmas day. I pray that in this Christmas season that you will experience God’s Word as healing and life giving, freeing your tongue in praise of Him.