For this last reflection in 2017 (yes, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” will resume in 2018), I am neither going to create a Christmas message that oozes with “sweetness and light” because, frankly, it’s not reality. Nor will I play the role of a crude Mr. Scrooge and give you all a “bah humbug” since the power of Jesus and what we celebrate at the Feast of the Incarnation is so wonderful that I refuse to play the role of cantankerous curmudgeon!
But my friends, my sisters and brothers, let’s keep focused on what is terribly and truly important: the “message” of Christmas is the Message of Easter! This fact of remembering that God chose to become enfleshed in a human body and thus into human history is a call to remember that every aspect of the Christmas story points to a deeper reality marking the greatest mystery of all: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus for our Salvation.
Don’t forget that a child born into poverty and for whom no one would share hospitality prefigured a time when a popular peasant preacher would be turned on by the crowd of supposed followers and abandoned by his own. And who stepped up to shelter him then? And just as the machinations of a corrupt emperor forces a young family to migrate to be registered, so the decisions of a corrupt Procurator will bring about this child’s death as an adult. As the baby would be laid to rest and bound on to a wooden feeding trough (“manger”), so one day he would be bound to another harsher piece of wood (“cross”).
But never forget that if the place of his birth is seen as a CAVE where no one human should be (only animals hung out there), so his intended final resting place (another cave) would become the site of mystery and light, redemption and reconciliation: from that cave would emerge He who IS the way, truth and LIFE. Born in a cave / resurrected from a cave.
And finally, in both cases, those who are totally “other” than we – call them “angels,” call them messengers of the Divine – proclaim the Good News. The announcement to Shepherds of the child’s birth (“Today is born for you a Savior”) and to the women who had come to anoint his broken dead body at the empty tomb (“He is not here. He is risen.”) is the same message: Do NOT be afraid! Be at PEACE. REJOICE. Your God is greater than human evil. And God’s “redeeming grace” is far more powerful than human tragedy.
Please don’t forget what we celebrate each Christmas: A memory of Jesus that prefigures His (and our) most important moment. And don’t forget that no matter the darkness of our world, that He has been born for us, and lived for us, and taught us, and died for us and rose from the dead to give us life. And what better gift could we possibly need or be given this or any season of the year!