By Brian Moore
“I bring you good tidings of great joy … For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord … You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12
WHAT has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas?
Could the cause be our disregard of Advent? When one ponders upon it we realise that the Church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of quiet anticipation.
If Christ is going to come again into our hearts, there must be repentance. Without repentance, our hearts will be so full of worldly things that there will be “no room in the inn” for Christ to be born again.
We have the joy not of celebration, which is the joy of Christmas, but the joy of anticipation and preparation.
It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialisation, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. In doing so, we would be forgetting the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God – the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it.
It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptised the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people – kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people – no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush.
Advent and Christmas reminds us once again that it was not man’s idea that the Son of God should be born in a stable. And so the first thing we learn from Jesus’ birth is that the Lord will not always be found where we expect to find Him.
We tend to look for Him in the nice, the clean, the warm. We expect Him to be in churches and in the Bible and in hymns of praise and in Christmas cards which have Scripture verses on them. And if these are the only places we search for the Lord, then we’re not looking in the stable. This reality is expressed with dramatic force in the following lines.
“I am not made of plaster, nor of stone, nor of bronze. I am living flesh throbbing, suffering. I am among men and women and they have not recognised Me.
“I am poorly paid, I am unemployed, I live in a slum. I am sick, I sleep under bridges, in cars, I am homeless, I am in prison.
“I am oppressed, I am patronised. I am lonely, I sweat men’s blood on all battlefields. I cry out in the night and die in the solitude of battle.
“And yet I said to them: ‘Whatever you do to My brothers or sisters, however humble, you do to Me.’ That’s clear. The terrible thing is that they know it, but don’t take it seriously.” Your friend, Jesus.
The sad reality is, that there are many people in the world today who are looking at the poor and marginalised through human eyes, eyes that will never detect the likeness of Jesus Christ in the poor, just as many human eyes failed to recognise the Son of God even when he moved amongst men in human form.
There is no doubt in my mind that Christmas Day is the day that changed the calendar and everything else.
Let us all take a moment and thank God for the wonderful gifts. He has given us – including the gift of his Son, Jesus. After all, without Him we would have nothing to celebrate.
May everyone be filled with an awesome sense of Joy and Peace, you’ve never known before. May you experience an overpowering faith and love for others.
May God’s Grace be upon you all and may you be blessed with good fortune and health during the year 2014.
Brian Moore is the state president of the St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland.