A Christmas Reflection
The Reason for the Season is Jesus
Have we forgotten why we celebrate Christmas? A friend told me she got a card wishing her a very merry Winter Festival? Could you beat that! People tell me they have to search in shops for cards that portray the Nativity but there is no shortage of snowy fir trees, red robins, reindeers and Santas. What are the so-called Christmas stamps celebrating? Do we have to be so politically correct that we cannot publicly celebrate our Christian heritage?
In the early Christian centuries, there was little if any celebration of the birth of Jesus. The major feasts were Easter, celebrating the Resurrection, and Epiphany, celebration of the manifestation of Jesus as King (gold), Priest (incense) and Suffering Servant (myrrh). Just after the winter solstice, people celebrated the return of the Unconquered Sun. But, as often happens in pagan festivals, it had become a drunken orgy which usually ended up in violence. The Church authorities addressed this problem by selecting this time to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, the light of God coming in human flesh. A few years ago, the renowned soprano Celine Byrne was asked on Lyric FM’s Marty- in- the-Morning why did Christmas mean so much to her. Her answer was marvellous. “The reason for the season is Jesus.”
Light looked down and saw darkness: “I will go there”, said light
Peace looked down and saw war: “I will go there”, said peace
Love looked down and saw hatred: “I will go there”, said love.
So he, the Lord of light, the Prince of peace, the King of love,
Came down and crept in beside us. (Rev John Bell)
The Christmas Crib
The popularization of the Christmas crib is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. His early biographers have left us vivid accounts of Christmas night at Greccio. According to Thomas of Celano, Francis set out “to bring to life the memory of that babe born in Bethlehem, to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, now as he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he was laid upon a bed of hay”. On Christmas night, the friars and local people arrived with flowers and lights. His friend, John, had arranged an ox, a donkey and a manger full of hay. “All those present experienced a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene. The priest then solemnly celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, showing the bond between the incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist. The nativity scene was enacted and experienced by all who were present” (Thomas of Celano). Everyone went home full of joy.
The Saviour who can fix it
I like this story which I came across in a book by the late Cardinal Martini. He was a highly qualified scriptural scholar but well able to enter the world of stories for children. Imagine Jesus as a growing boy in Nazareth. One of his pals was celebrating his birthday. All the kids were expected to bring little presents. In those days most toys were made of wood, like little dolls, houses or wagons. Last year a friend gave me a Rudolf, the red nosed reindeer, constructed from a fallen branch and a few twigs. Anyway, getting back to Nazareth. One of the boys spotted that Jesus arrived emptyhanded, so he challenged him.
“Jesus, you brought nothing”. Jesus replied, “Oh yes I did.”
“I can see nothing. My dad says that you religion people are all talk but you do nothing. What did you bring?”
“I can fix it”, Jesus replied.
“What do you mean, I can fix it?”
“In Daddy Joseph’s workshop people bring in all sorts of broken stuff and he is a genius at fixing things. I have watched him closely. So, if any of the toys you bring gets broken, then I can fix it.”
The name, Jesus, which was announced by an angel, means the one who saves … the one who can fix the life that is broken and needs healing.
This Jesus invites us to come to him with our problems and broken parts.
Our Christian invitation
Come to me with whatever needs to be fixed in your life.
Come to me with your burdens and heavy loads … and I will give you rest.
Come with your darkness, questions and difficulties of faith … I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not be walking in the darkness but will have the light of life.
Bring me your questions … your inner needs and search for meaning… I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Come to me when you are feeling lost, aimless, searching for direction … I am the Good Shepherd who will guide you along the right path.
Come when you are lonely or deserted … I shall not call you servants any more … I call you friends
Come when you feel crushed, wronged, angry or agitated … Peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.
Come when you feel guilty or hopeless … I am Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
Come when you are sad or suffering a bereavement… “I am the resurrection and the life … I am going now to prepare a place for you.”
Today a Saviour has been born for you … his name is Jesus whose name means one who saves.
We are celebrating the coming of the Saviour … the One who can fill the empty space in the heart … who can fix whatever is broken.
May you experience the singing of the angels rendering glory to God:
the peace of God in your heart and mind,
the joy of the shepherds,
and the worship of the Magi.