Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A message from a stranger

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 7, 2022

I was driving home from a friend’s house on unfamiliar roads at night. Rain pummeled the car, the windshield fogged up and the lines on the road were momentarily erased.  

Even though I wasn’t that far from home, the journey seemed endless. What are all these people doing out in this storm? I wondered. Why aren’t there any street lights?  

The road was studded with deep potholes, filled with rainwater, which were impossible to avoid. When I finally saw houses laden with lights with sparkling reindeer on the lawns, I felt relieved.  

Pulling into my driveway, I spotted my trusty cat, Fuzzy, staring out the window, waiting patiently for his beloved. He greeted me with ecstatic meows, then raced into the kitchen, no doubt hoping I’d celebrate my homecoming by giving him a treat. He wasn’t wrong.  

During Advent, I love looking out the window at the lights on the big Leyland cypress my husband planted long ago. Little did we know that it would one day become the neighborhood Christmas tree, which is lit each year with a festive gathering. 

Advent’s message is multilayered. Yes, we’re awaiting the birth of Jesus, and we have time to prepare ourselves with prayers and confession. We are also awaiting the end of time, when Jesus will come again.  

This can seem confusing, until you consider that the baby in the manger will grow into the man on the cross. The happiness of Christmas will turn into the sorrow of Good Friday, which, in turn, will become the joy of the Resurrection. The earthly world God created will one day be no more.  

Shortly before Advent began, I headed over to daily Mass and arrived a half hour early. It was dark inside, and in the narthex I saw a tall man dressed in an officer’s military uniform.  

Without even thinking, I asked, “Is this a special day?” because he was so decked out. He smiled and shook his head. Then, just as I was walking into Mass, he said, “Jesus is coming.”  

I figured I’d see him at Mass, but he wasn’t there. In fact, I haven’t seen him since that day. What did his message mean? On the one hand, Jesus would soon be present on the altar, hidden under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine. He would also be coming as a baby in a few weeks. And the words “Jesus is coming” can refer to the end of the world, when Jesus will judge all of us.  

I thought about his words, as I drove cautiously home that night. Advent comes at the darkest time of the year. Each day, we plunge into night earlier and earlier, until the winter solstice finally starts giving us light back.  

The world was a dark place when Jesus was born, with King Herod sending soldiers to slaughter baby boys in his attempt to kill the newborn king. Still, Jesus triumphed over every moment of gloom. St. John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”  

We say someone has seen the light, when they understand something for the first time. When people are happy, we say they are lighthearted, and when they’re sad, they fall into a dark mood. Dark and light are the motifs of our Catholic journey. The shepherds followed the light of a star to find Jesus, and the sun was darkened when Jesus died.  

We are on a road that at times is scary and dark. We can’t see far enough ahead to avoid the potholes. We must follow the glimmers of light that will take us home.  

This is the heart of Advent, readying ourselves to greet the baby who changed the whole world. The one who would say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  

May we turn away from darkness and embrace every pinpoint of light. May the simple message of a stranger illuminate our hearts and brighten our paths. Jesus is coming!  

Artwork is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef ( Her email address is