It’s always amazing what the presence of a child does to the spirits of people. Some of the most hardened and sour-faced of people just transform in seeing a baby. It’s as if they awaken from a stupor, suddenly smiling and stooping down, making faces and speaking in baby talk.
The people we would never expect to visibly express themselves surprisingly open the doors of their hearts and personalities to the little one. Perhaps there’s something in the vulnerability, innocence and unconditional love of a child that provokes and enlivens such a response?
We live in an age of anxiety and uncertainty. The turbulent international scene and the common, everyday struggles that we and our loved ones have with the things of life, such as love, forgiveness, finances, work and moral issues, sometimes foster in us a sense of inadequacy and fear. And so, life can sometimes seem like an overloaded burden we must carry or a problem that we cannot solve.
Into this contagious environment of insecurity and awkwardness, however, a child is born to us and a son is given to us!
As the Advent observance concludes and we enter the celebrations of Christmas, we are invited to recall and rejoice in the truth that God has entered the human experience. As Zachariah proclaimed in the Temple of Jerusalem: “The Dawn from on High has broken upon us!” And this magnificent entrance of the All-Powerful and the Ancient of Days occurred in a radically unexpected way: God came to us as a baby, a child born of a mother.
Of the many theological reasons for such an Incarnation, we cannot forget the very human reason, namely, he came to us as an indefensible little one so that – as with any child – the barriers around our hearts might be softened and we might see the tender love that is offered to us. God kindly comes to us through Mary in Bethlehem and is laid in a feeding trough. The message could not be clearer nor more endearing.
As the Lord would later say in his public ministry: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Fullness of Days and Thrice-Holy God comes to us at Christmas in a way that is devoid of any intimidation or fear. By coming to us as a child, God affirms his blessing to life and teaches us that, despite hardships and disappointments, life is worth living. God shows us that life is not a burden. It’s a gift that we unwrap with God every day and experience it with all its surprises, sorrows, joys, sufferings, and consolations.
Humanity seems to recognize the wisdom and power of this divine act of friendship since at Christmas we are always at our best. In the kindness, love and generosity that we show one another during this holiday season, we truly go the extra mile and we seem closer to what we can and should be as a human family. And all this care and affection, which is so needed and so encouraging today, happens because of Christmas, because of God’s immense act of intimacy, because a child was born to us who will bring us goodness and light.
And so, in Jesus Christ, humanity is given a supreme witness of its own dignity and upward calling to goodness and holiness. The Lord’s sacred life declares a summons to each of us to live our human vocation virtuously and to nurture a generous heart within us toward God and our neighbor.
During this Christmas season, then, we’re all invited to the crèche, to see the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and to hear this call from him. To those who respond, they can vanquish darkness and needless anxiety and experience the light and joy that are to be a part of human life. In opposition to animosity and intolerance, they can become instruments of peace and tranquility in our world today.
This is the work the Lord desires to do. It’s the hope and promise of Christmas and it’s offered to each of us!