In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, Merry Christmas! Blessings and Joy on this celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord. We recall the salutation traditionally said among the faithful on the occasion of Easter Sunday: Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! There is an analogous, although less well known, salutation to be said among the faithful on the occasion of Christmas: Christ is Born! Let us glorify Him! If we were to encapsulate the true meaning of Christmas down to two words, they would be Joy and Glorify, and indeed those two words are in actuality two sides of the same reality. For there is no greater joy for man than to glorify God, and man is capable of glorifying God for no other reason than that God has brought man into Himself and His joyous eternal life in the Incarnation of His Son. The Christmas Miracle is not just that God is born this day among men, but that God has opened the door for us to be reborn in Him. Indeed, as much as the Incarnation of God defies our reason, our settled judgment about life, and our familiarity with hopelessness, sin, and death, even more astounding than what God has done for us is the possibility that we may be like Him. When we behold the Incarnate God as a baby in a manger, God invites us to see the possibility of our own rebirth, our eternal freedom from sin and from death, and our second infancy in the loving arms of God. We celebrate on this occasion not just a singular event in the past, but our hope for the future. For that Christ Child prefigures all that God has in store for us, if only we shall find as much joy and peace in Him as He does in all of us.
We behold the Incarnate God as a newborn on a cradle of hay. His earthly parents shield him as best they can from the weather, while farm animals look on from a safe distance. In time, a few others will arrive to pay their respects; but at first, there is just the nucleus of family life: a baby with his mother and adoptive father. There is no more basic or fundamental family relationship, for what else is the seed of an extended family, a village, a tribe, a nation, or an empire? In this Nativity God is planting a seed not just for the New Adam; the New Man freed from sin in Christ Jesus and reborn a citizen in the Father’s Kingdom. He is planting a seed for the New Family, the community of believers working and praying for one another as Brothers and Sisters in the faith into eternity. In this Nativity we see the birth of a New World, a New Creation, a literal universe of lives, loves, and hopes made right with God. In this New World, the Truth defies much of the reason and the expectations that prevail in our fallen world. In Christ Jesus, the embodiment of this New World, divine strength is made manifest in human weakness, power in meekness, and authority in humility. Life triumphs in this New World, but this happens through the death of a convict upon a cross. Death is vanquished in this New World, but this happens through the birth of an infant whose parents are temporarily homeless and will soon be political refugees. While we remain mired in our fallen world, all too accustomed still to the lure of sin and the certainty of death, we should try to remember from Our Lord’s Nativity that God so often reaches out to us through the poor, the weak, the lonely, the dispossessed. He calls for us to see Him in those who are marginal, silenced, or even hated by the powers that be. He cries out to us from those who have yet to be born as much as by the elderly about to die alone. The Christ Child reaching up to His mother and His adoptive father is the icon of those who are vulnerable, fragile, reliant on others for their sustenance, far from home and safety, as foreign among hostile strangers as God’s divine Light is within the darkness of our fallen world. Mary and Joseph respond with love to the Christ Child. How do we respond when those who suffer for one reason or another reach up to us? Do we see the Christ Child in them? Or are they no more than an inconvenience or an embarrassment to us? Saint Teresa of Calcutta famously remarked, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed Him. This is sick Jesus, and so I must wash Him and tend to Him. I serve because I love Jesus.” The Christ Child challenges us to see Jesus in all who suffer, all who are afflicted, all who are down and struggling to get back up, just as Saint Teresa of Calcutta saw them. The Christmas Miracle is that God gives each of us the grace to do just that. The Holy Spirit draws us to the manger. Do we step forward, and adore Him, or do we find yet another in a long list of reasons to cast Him aside in favor of what is much easier for us?
Christmas is a special time. We set it aside from the rest of the year with our joyous Carols, our trees, ornaments, and decorations, and, one hopes, the greater kindness and empathy that we exhibit to one another. This is good as far as it goes, and yet the challenge before us is to make every occasion and every encounter with one another as resplendent with Christmas Joy as that which we hope to experience on Christmas Day. Returning again to Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” This reminds me of a summer road trip when I was a child. We drove through a small town in Michigan on our way up to the Canadian border. The name of the town was Christmas, and the streets and the storefronts were decorated with Christmas decorations three-hundred and sixty-five days of the year. I recall a loudspeaker on a tall pole at the main intersection that played Christmas music presumably nonstop. Years later, when I came to know of the television series, I wondered in retrospect if perhaps we had made a detour that afternoon into The Twilight Zone. Regardless, Christmas, Michigan, is really not all that different from Roswell, New Mexico, which is decorated with UFO’s and space aliens. What we are describing here is schmaltz: Santa and his red nosed reindeer; Bing Crosby dreaming of a White Christmas; Charlie Brown finding his Christmas Tree. As Christians, we certainly can enjoy this for what it is, although I imagine year-round Yuletide sentimentality may prove insufferable for some of us. What matters is that we never lose sight of the real meaning of the Christ Child. God is everywhere, and yet He is also much too easily hidden, and replaced with false idols and empty sentiment. Pray, my Brethren in Christ Jesus, that we put aside the clutter and behold in truth and without hesitation the miracle of the Incarnation of God. With our souls clothed with faith, and our eyes finally opened, we shall see the manger before us, and we shall kneel before Him alongside the Wise Men and the Shepherds. And the Angel of the Lord shall proclaim to us that “Christ is Born,” and we shall respond in unison with a boundless joy, “Let us glorify Him.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.