This Sunday marks the beginning of the end of the Advent season. For the past few weeks, the Church has called on believers to prepare their hearts to meet the Lord Jesus. And while there are still a few days left, it’s time for us to recall the mystery and the glory of the Lord’s Nativity.
In fulfillment of ancient prophecy, which began in the very Garden of Eden with the promise of a Messiah, an Anointed – but Wounded – Savior, God comes to us. As Zechariah foretold, the Dawn from on High has broken upon us. He has seen our plight, heard our pleas, and now he comes to us.
When the fullness of time had come, the eternal Son of God took upon himself the mission of the long-awaited Messiah. No one could have ever expected that the promised Savior would be God himself, that he would dwell among us, and that he would choose the path of suffering as the means of our salvation.
And yet, God came to us. He didn’t arrive in spectacular fashion. He didn’t stop the earth and demand our homage. When it was time, he came as one of us. He worked with human hands, loved with a human heart, and cried human tears. He learned a trade, grieved the loss of a parent, and knew the trials and travails of human life from the inside out. It was this path, which the Lord walked faithfully and prayerfully, that became the way of our salvation.
As the Lord comes among us, he shows us his way. He invites us to walk with him along the most excellent way of love. He has shown us, by his life and death, that suffering can be redemptive and that evil doesn’t have the last word.
What will we decide this Christmas? Will it be just a secular observance of a religious holy day? Or will we let the lessons of the Lord’s Nativity fill our heart?
After the sorrows and uncertainty of this past year, the lessons of Christmas can be a welcomed encouragement and a source of inspiration for us all.
In the confusion, anxiety, and hardship of a fallen world, the Lord Jesus offers us peace, hope, and abundant joy. From the wood of his cradle – which is a preparation for the wood of his Cross – the Lord Jesus sends out graces of justice, truth, and mercy. In contrast to the sorrows and darkness of the world, the Lord offers us comfort and light.
As Pope Francis has taught: “There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.”
And so, as we celebrate the great mystery of the Lord’s Nativity and our salvation in him, will we accept this spiritual gifts and allow them to become a greater part of our lives?
As the world spins, will we keep our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ? The answer to the fallenness and darkness of our world has been given to us in Bethlehem. The answer to the sorrows of our hearts has become flesh and has dwelt among us. He has pitched his tent with us and walked with us. The Word became flesh and desires to be our Friend and Companion.
Pope Francis also observes: “Yet Christmas has essentially a flavor of hope because, notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light shines out. His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us, as one of us.”
This Christmas, we can choose to stay unhappy and miserable because of life’s disappointments and uncertainties. But we do have another choice.
We can choose to die to ourselves, accept the powerful Christmas message of peace and joy, bask in the glory of God’s grace, and let ourselves be happy and hopeful. The path we live is the path we choose. And every Christmas, especially Christmas 2020, calls us to choose the path to Bethlehem, the path of tranquility and hope in Jesus Christ.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby