Over the last few days thousands of people in central and Eastern Canada have been suffering from the effects of a major ice storm. As the ice accumulates it creates a burden of tremendous weight on roofs, tree limbs and power lines. When the weight is too heavy to bear, there is collapse, often bringing with it terrible damage and power outages. Relief comes with the removal of the burden by the warmth of the sun.
Burden is a stranger to none of us. Many things weigh heavily upon our minds, hearts, emotions, indeed our whole lives. These can be the pressures of everyday life: illness, loneliness, family strife, financial strain. They leave us feeling ready to collapse, devoid of energy. Of particular gravity is the burden of guilt for sins we have committed, together with the fear and anxiety that arise before the mystery of death. The accumulated weight bows us down and robs us of joy.
Long ago, as he spoke to his people weighed down by their particular burdens, the prophet Isaiah looked forward to a day when these heavy loads would be lifted by an intervention of God: “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” The divine action that would bring this release would be the birth of a child: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us…” (cf. Isaiah 9: 2-4, 6-7)
Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of this promise. In the child Jesus born of Mary, God has entered our history as one of us. His presence lifts our burdens and releases joy! The Scripture readings for Christmas Mass resound with joy. When, for example, the angels appear to the shepherds they announce “good news of great joy”! The source of that joy is the birth from Mary of the Saviour, the nativity of the One who would, at last, break the terrible, onerous yoke of sin and death. As the weight of ice is removed by the warm sun, the burden of sin is lifted by the tender compassion of the Son of God made flesh.
As we enter this most holy season, perhaps we could ask ourselves what burdens are robbing us of joy. Whether they be worry, frustration, powerlessness, hurt, resentment, or circumstances beyond our control, let us bring them before the child born of Mary, Jesus Christ. In faith, let us place them before Him and ask that He lift them from us, or at least give us the strength to bear them and thus lead us through the burdens to a deeper knowledge of His love and our dependence upon His mercy. Above all, let us turn to Him with any guilt we may still bear over unrepented sin, and ask His forgiveness. As we allow Jesus to “break the yoke” that weighs us down, we shall taste the joy for which he was born among us.