The Thrill of Hope

I just heard Josh Groban's rendition of “Oh, Holy Night” for the first time this Christmas season, and as last year, I am reduced to tears.

Almost any traditional rendition will do, but this one especially brings joyful tears to my eyes. I try to sing along, but I only get so far:

Oh, Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel voices.

Oh, night divine, Oh, night when Christ was born,

Oh, night divine, Oh, night, Oh, night divine.
I weep because I am grateful for what He did for us — for me. I cannot comprehend the depth of His love and the breadth of His forgiving grace; all I feel is speechlessly thankful to Him.

It overwhelms me to think that He took the form of the lowliest among us and went through what He did, for us. He was God; He could have come as a powerful Roman. He could have made it easy on Himself; instead He made it easy on us. He could have made it so He would not suffer; instead He made it so we would not suffer forever. He came as the weakest, most insignificant of all creatures, a human baby. He reduced Himself to almost nothing of value to “society,” then and now. He did it this way so that none of us need ever feel distant from Him. He did it this way so we would never consider closeness with Him to be unattainable.

The tears stream down as I listen to that song. No matter where I am: in the car or a grocery store, I feel as I do when at eucharistic adoration. I cannot help but want to fall on my knees and thank Him endlessly. It is just too amazing for me to not feel overwhelmed with my smallness compared to His unbounded love and mercy, His unimaginable glory and power. Yet it was for me, for you, for all of us, that He stooped to do these things. My soul feels its worth only because of Him. I weep because I find it so hard to believe that He did all this for me, but also because I believe. I am so grateful I cannot contain it.

My mind wanders, thinking of those who reject His divinity. How can anyone really doubt He was God? What mortal would have chosen the form and fate He chose? What human being really would have “gone through with it all,” trying to “prove he was God?” It is not possible for a person to do what Jesus did. No human could have loved us so completely, so irrevocably, that, “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), our salvation was His only goal.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining.” For me, at least regarding my abortion, the pining has lasted for twenty-two years. Millions still pine. To pine means to grieve, to worry, to be distressed or tormented. Truer words could never describe what we post-abortive women and men experience.

But Jesus has appeared. He continues to appear. I recently heard a perfect definition of Christ's sacraments, especially for those who've fallen away from God: these are the gifts Jesus gave us so that we could be especially close to Him and He to us, after He ascended to heaven. Rather than viewing the sacraments as “obligations” or “chores,” they give us Him, right here by our sides, still.

Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease.

Jesus Christ broke my chains of torment and grief. I cry in silent, joyful thanks to Him for healing me. He breaks all our chains. We only need ask Him, and then let Him. Once you do, you too will fall on your knees, in your heart forever.

I wish you all a grace-filled, blessed Christmas.

(Annie Banno is the Connecticut State Leader of OPERATION OUTCRY: SILENT NO MORE. To contact her or sign up to receive her free newsletter, e-mail [email protected].)

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