Christmas is a feast of great joy. Houses are decorated. Coloured paper stars scattering light flutter in front of our houses. The midnight Mass, the crib with the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the animals give a sense of mystery and wonder to this feast. After the Eucharist, all the family members gather at home and exchange gifts. On Christmas day none is so happy as our children. In their new clothes, with the presents scattered around them, the children radiate a spirit of pure joy and satisfaction. But in our poor families, we cannot celebrate Christmas with lights and presents, food and drinks. Nor can we give many presents to our children. Yet, even we, the poor are swept into the joy of Christmas. The new, though cheap clothes and the little extra food are signs of our participation in the joy of this feast. Joy is God’s universal gift. The rich and the poor can share it.
With the advance of western ways and secularistic ideas into our cities and even villages, we too are in danger of making Christmas into a secular, social feast -a feast in which we celebrate ourselves, our riches and achievements, our craving for pleasure and fun, our desire for feasting. Christmas is God’s gift to us. We are celebrating Him and not ourselves. This is the reason why this feast is a feast of joy. “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy -“.
We are celebrating today the appearance of God’s goodness and kindness in our midst. God has turned and looked on us with love and concern. He has come to us, ‘God is with you'(Emmanuel). God meets us as a Babe. God has taken on our flesh and blood, our birth and mortality. He is one of us from now on. In Him our needs, trials, sufferings, temptation, anxieties, bitterness and even sin find support, forgiveness and sanctification. He is the flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. Truly the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour have become flesh and blood in our midst, in us. Christmas therefore brings us joy because it gives us hope. There is salvation for you and me. Yes, in Christ we have hope.
God’s goodness and kindness appeared in the world, a world ruled by the Caesars, a world in which sinners and saints existed side by side, a world full of wars, revolutions, exploitation and oppression, the callous apathy of the rich and the lethargic resignation of the poor. The world to which His coming today is not different from the one to which He came at that moment of history. The super-powers and smaller nations are constantly at war with each other. Selfish greed seems to be the motivating force of all international policies and decisions. Oppression, injustice, exploitation of the poor is rampant. Murderers, prostitutes, thieves of all colours, lazy men and women, self-centered pleasure seekers are in our midst in increasing numbers. There are also saints, servants of men, men who sacrifice themselves for a just and good cause. As at the time of the first Christmas, every human heart, every community and our history itself is a mixture of good and evil. It is into this world God came and He still comes.
God’s love bending down and taking on our flesh and blood, becoming man, gives us the possibility to love. Our hearts and minds can now take on the form of God’s heart and mind. We can become other persons because in Jesus, God’s love has become each one of us. Our capacity to love comes from God Himself who is love and whose love made flesh now dwells in our midst, in our hearts. But love is hard. It crucifies and crowns; it prunes and makes us grow; it consigns us to the fire and perfects. To love is to bleed willingly and joyfully. All true love is self-emptying, acceptance of the other as He is, wishing him well, transforming him from within by the agony of our self-gift. To love is to sacrifice oneself for the beloved with a word of thanks and a prayer of praise on one’s lips. This is why we find love so difficult, why we leave the seed of love in our heart to die, we make others a means of our self-growth, a stepping stone to our upward march. The result is decadence and corruption. In this loveless world’s love and goodness appear as a Babe. He does not hold on to this dignity and glory; He empties Himself, suffers and dies with a prayer of love and forgiveness on His lips. We know now what love is. This love is now the center of our hearts, of our community, of history. Christmas is a feast of joy because we are made to share God’s love and goodness. God’s love has now appeared to us.
We can now hope and love because the Babe of Bethlehem has given us ‘new eyes’, faith. In Him we experience that God is love that His fidelity is like a rock, that He has concern for us. In Him we know what man is, the depth of misery into which he falls and the heights of glory to which he is raised. In Him we know that to be a man is dignity enough and that every man is equally worthy of respect of love .
This new born babe is the effective sign of our hope and love, the guarantee of our dignity and worth the pledge of our sonship and glory, the beginning and goal of our history. Let us kneel down, worship Him with Mary and Joseph and make Him the source of our goodness and love.
Sr. Apollonia HC
St. Joseph Convent, Aquem Margao