“Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord”
Let me begin this Christmas reflection by wishing you all very MERRY CHRISTMAS and praying that the joy this day brings to our lives, our families, our friends and the whole world may endure bringing lasting peace. Amen.
The Christmas story is the greatest love story ever told. At Christmas what we celebrate is a love story that the lover offers His life to the beloved for no other reason but love. At Christmas, The One loving empties Himself of His dignity and glory as God and becomes a man; He stoops down from His heavenly throne to assume the position of a slave (Philippians 2: 6-11). In the Gospel Reading (John 1: 1-18), the Evangelist lucidly puts this fact of divine condescension this way: “In the beginning was The Word: The Word was with God and The Word was God … The Word became flesh and dwell among us” (John 1: 1, 14). The Eternal Word became incarnated and comes to man as man, whom He loves, not so that He would gain anything from man but so that He might die for man to live (John 10: 10). St John again reminds us of this unfathomable love very aptly in these very familiar words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3: 16). This is a story of love so undeserving. St. Paul tell us: “It was to prove how much He loves us that Christ died for us while we were sinners” (Romans 5: 8). Perhaps we would rather say: “It was to prove how much He loves us that Christ was born for us while we were still sinners.” Writing to Titus, St. Paul declared: “When the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because He was concerned with any righteous action we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except His own compassion that He saved us (Titus 3: 4-5). The love we celebrate today, is a love beyond all telling, indescribable, supreme, it is unfathomable. The Christmas story therefore, challenges to love God because He loved us first (1 John 4: 19). Let the love of God for us move our hearts to seek to be more like Him.
The Christmas love story is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation. At the Garden of Eden, man was trapped in sin and condemnation by the disobedience of our first parents. The initiative to save humanity was the idea of our generous and loving God, Who decided, without any human apology, to save man through the offspring of the woman (Genesis 3: 15). This promise to save man is fulfilled at Christmas, at the birth of the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger. St. Augustine reflects on this as follows:
“Eternal death would have awaited you had He not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from your sinful flesh, had He not taken to Himself the likeness of your sinful flesh. Everlasting would be your misery, had He not performed this act of mercy. You would not have come to life again, had He not come to die your death. You would have broken down, had He not come to help you. You would have perished, had He not come.”
At Christmas, each of us is invited to contemplate this outpouring of God’s immense and unmerited pardon for us. This celebration becomes incarnated in us when we are able to recycle forgiveness and reconciliation in noir relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. For true love is nourished by forgiveness and sustained by sincere acts of reconciliation.
The Birth of Christ by the forgiveness and reconciliation it brings obtains for us access to God’s grace. That unmerited favour we receive from God. It is free and undeserved but given to us thanks to the Birth of The One born as the Light of the world. Through Grace man sometimes lives beyond his limits and capabilities and ascends to the realm of the impossible because the Birth of Christ makes His grace sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12: 19) and we can then do all things through Christ Who strengthens us (Philippians 4: 13). This indeed is the season of grace.
These are gifts from the Lover to the us His beloved ones. Like every gift, it is the responsibility of the one who is given to receive and to make the most of it. Yes, “on to us a child is born, a Son is given.” Are we ready to receive Him? Are we proud of Him? Do we tell others about the one who loves us so much as to empty Himself of His divine state to show us His love? Are we ready to share that love with others? This love will remain, moribund, inert, unproductive and ineffective unless we share it. Thomas Merton once wrote: “The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and therefore, to give love with full effect is to also to receive it. So love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received,”
God the Father communicated this love by The Word becoming flesh in our midst. Today, The Word needs to become flesh in us through our lives, in our words and actions. The Word has to be made concrete by the way we relate with the “least of our brothers”; by our generosity in forgiving and welcoming those we would rather not because of the depth of the hurt they have caused us; by the way we are able to empty ourselves for the sake of others. This way this greatest love story will continue to be told not by mere words but by lived experience around the world.
Go, therefore and share the joy of the love of Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you all!