By Christopher Gunty
Five years ago, the plight of 33 miners trapped in Chile captured the minds and hearts of the world. The men spent 69 days some 2,300 feet underground in the Copiapó mine in the Atacama Desert.
Their situation seemed bleak. Known escape routes caved in or were inaccessible. But the men believed their families were waiting for them, and they had faith they would make it.
On the surface, families kept pressure on the mining company and the Chilean government to continue searching for the men. They set up Campamento Esperanza (Camp Hope) so they could wait near the mine. A community emerged.
Dramatized for the screen in the recently-released movie “The 33,” the story details the perseverance and prayers of the miners, their families and the whole world. Spoiler alert: They all survived, and when they emerged one by one from the depths in the rescue pod called the Fenix (a nod to the phoenix bird who rises from its ashes as a potent symbol of resurrection), they wore dark glasses to shield their eyes from the sunlight they had not seen in 10 weeks.
In Advent, we often hear the message from Isaiah, echoed in the Gospel of Mark: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9:1; cf. Mk 4:16).
The 33 miners walked in darkness, and were overjoyed when they reached the light. Still, they had problems adjusting to their “new” life after their rescue.
In a similar way, we who wait in the darkness of Advent rejoice in the great light of the Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas. And sometimes we have problems sharing the joy of Christmas, and continuing to live as a people who have been saved by the birth of an infant 2,000 years ago.
We may be trapped by the flurry of holiday shopping, parties and decorations that went up in stores with Halloween barely over. But we have an advantage over the miners: We are not helpless underground; we don’t have to wait for rescue. Rescue is here. Jesus was born for us, a light in our darkness. We commemorate his birth, but it has already happened. His birth as a human like us in all things but sin, his passion and death, and his resurrection, have redeemed us already. We just need to bask in the great light of his redemption.
Here we form the community that allows us to support each other as we work and pray our way through Advent. The manger is our “Camp Hope.”
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