The feast of Christmas is both magical and mystical. And there’s much that helps make it so. The most obvious are three:
In Christmastide, there’s the exchange of gifts. Who doesn’t like giving and receiving gifts? And God’s gifts at Christmas are some humanity has wanted and needed for centuries: the gifts of a savior to deliver us and of reconciliation with God and of our being able to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.
Secondly, Christmas is the fulfillment of a promise that God had spoke long ago to us. God is faithful. Thankfully for us!
And, thirdly, there’s a child in our Christmas celebrating. (Events with babies in them are usually happier, livelier and more memorable unless the baby is fussy or screaming or has a dirty diaper!)
Yes, our feasting these days is magical and mystical. However, we must not forget that Jesus – God’s gift and promise – became flesh in a time and place that looked and felt more like a normal day for most of us than the romantic, warm and magical moment we see in our mangers or experience in our candlelight Christmas services. Pondering this can reveal some other less obvious reasons why this time is so special to so many.
1. Mary and Joseph and their people lived fearing that their lives might be disrupted and changed at any moment. Into their oppression, Jesus the savior was born and died. Into disorder, God appeared- “pitched a tent” – and stayed. Into chaos and darkness, God said again LET THERE BE LIGHT. This light shines today… in Afghanistan, in our Holy lands and sacred spaces, and in this gray time for some around us… bringing hope to estranged families and warring nations and to those us who are wrestling with ourselves. Where there is oppression, there God is – tending to the brokenhearted! Now, that’s a Christmas gift.
2. We can’t forget that the holy family finding shelter temporarily in a stable were travelers who were not welcomed and were not seen as having any personal or particular need. Our glamorized and ordered manger scenes don’t show inhospitality. They don’t exude awful odors. They don’t reveal the pain or panic of parents being homeless. Nor, from them, do we hear the anguished cries of things not being perfect! But, if God can be at home in a place like that, then God can be at home in our confusion and noise and even in the mess we may call “our lives”. That’s another wonderful gift of Christmas!
3. It was through believers that Christ was born to the world. They heard God’s promises, hoped and looked to God with trust. They prayed, sang, and worshipped. Today, through faithful people the savior and his gifts still come to an unbelieving world . That makes us a gift of Christmas!
4. The Christ-born-in-time is the Eternal Word of God bringing life and peace and freedom. Because of him, every good word we speak is a sacred word, too. What a gift that is for others! And every ugly word spoken about and against another is a sacrilege – a violation of one of God’s holy ones!
Yes, into a time and into lives like ours, God came and made a home so that we might be at home with God. Now, that’s profoundly magical and mystical. A blessed new year to all!
Joe Lehman is the Pastor at Our Lady Of Nazareth Catholic Church. Visit them on the web at www.oln-parish.org