December 28, 2011

The Mystery of a Merry Christmas

The Christmas Season holds out for us the deepest personal joy.  It is a season that begins on Christmas Eve, includes the Solemnity of the Mother of God (New Years Day), Epiphany (Little Christmas) and runs through the Baptism of the Lord (although the ancient observance of this Season once lasted until Candle-mass at the beginning of February).   Throughout this time, the beautiful greeting “Merry Christmas” is as much of a challenge as it is a wish.  The challenge and the wish have to do with beholding God who has manifested his glory in our flesh.  It has to do with attending to the Word which resounds in the silent stillness of our weakness anew.  Christmas is a merry exchange in which God embraces human sorrow so that men might know divine joy.  It is a prayerful encounter which takes up not only a recalling of ancient events in earthly history but at the same time a loving gaze into one's own depths in the present moment, a moment which is forever carried by this newly unfolding heavenly mystery.

Christmas is about a deeper conversion of life from darkness to light, from the poverty of our pettiness into the inexhaustible riches of God's love.  This life changing presence of the Lord is our joy.  This hidden strength in the midst of our weakness is our hope.

The Savior is wondrously present to us and reveals his power even in the midst of this life's most difficult trials.  He lives in our poverty even when we do not feel him, an ever flowing fount of divine strength in the face of all kinds of hardships which tempt us to disappointment. Yet we have great reason to persevere in prayer even in the face of death, even when we do not believe we can pray, for our hope does not disappoint.   

If we renew our dedication to prayer, how can we not be merry to the point of jubilation when our faith makes the Birth of Christ and the whole mystery of the Incarnation manifestly present to us again?  And yet, when we are honest with ourselves, our joy is not nearly as complete as it ought to be.   The Word become flesh speaks as the Gospel is proclaimed but we do not take the time to hear.  The Bread of Life laid in a manger feeds us with true spiritual food but we do not make it our life's priority to eat.  Instead, we are constantly pulled into all kinds of indulgent self-occupations, prideful self-righteousness, and at the same time despairing self-condemnation.  We must be vigilant lest the glitter and noise of our brokenness rob us of the joy we ought to have in Emmanuel, God-with-us.  

The merriment of Christmas is his sacred presence, an astonishing presence which He has pledged to us forever.  Hidden in the poverty of our work-a-day existence is a superabundant fullness of life, love and communion which is ready to be a manifest source of infallible personal joy -- if we seek Him in faith.  To accept the true meaning of “Merry Christmas” requires a humble and determined effort to attend, to listen, to search, to ponder, to meditate, to wonder, to adore, and to fight for his wondrous presence in our lives, in our families and in our communities.

Merry Christmas!  The God-child is born unto us: a new morning dawning on our lives, higher than our thoughts and deeper than our desires.  Shining in our darkness and resounding in our silence the Word has become flesh - and death cannot overcome Him.  There is a Holy Fire in the night, a radiant Star whose hope filled rays illumine an inestimable mystery entrusted to us, a mystery beyond all telling, a wonder far beyond our ability to imagine or understand.  A fulfillment of all desires surpassing every promise, an overwhelming rush of divine tenderness, an enveloping comfort which surpasses the sorrow of our our afflictions, and a more than hoped for answer to life’s most painful questions: all of this is as present and as accessible in this present moment as a newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Christ dwells with us now as then proclaimed by angels, despised by the powerful, sought by the wise, and adored by the poor.