A young woman, a refugee from Syria, sees a homeless, wheel-chair bound veteran begging for money in front of the metro entrance in Washington DC. He is all alone. No one is giving him money. He looks sad and depressed. She walks over to him, gives him some money, and starts talking to him, letting him have companionship for the day. Later, she asks him what he would need for the rest of the day that she could get for him from a nearby store. Without hesitation, she gets all that he asks, paying for it from her own money, and offers it as a Christmas gift to him.
Christ is Born!
A dark-skinned man had been receiving threatening notes in the mail for a week. The police told him they could do nothing about it. On Friday evening, his home is firebombed. Members of a nearby mosque, upon hearing what he went through, drove to his home, offering him food and shelter, and any other aid he might need.
Christ is Born!
A young, pregnant teenager, kicked out of her house by her alcoholic mother, finds herself living on the streets; a man approaches her. She fears him by instinct, thinking he must be a sexual predator wanting to take advantage of her. Instead, he is police officer, new to the force, checking out her story. He knows of a place she can stay safe, a local church with beds for young girls in her situation. He takes her there, before having an investigation opened up concerning her mother.
Christ is Born!
And elderly woman, her husband dead, her children, neglectful of her, finds herself alone for Christmas. She goes to church, but hardly talks to anyone. She is there, sad and downcast, sitting next to a family with several children full of holiday cheer. She wants someone to listen to her, to give her respect. To her surprise, the father speaks to her and, upon finding out she is alone, invites her over for Christmas dinner.
Christ is Born!
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25 RSV).
Joseph was challenged with the birth of Jesus, just like each and everyone one of us should be. He is the Lord of all, the Logos become man. In his old age, Joseph did not expect this, and yet when the challenge came to him, he took up his part. Mary, daughter of Zion, his betrothed, had been given a special role in salvation history. She had been raised up at of God’s relationship with Israel to represent the perfect “yes” of humanity to God. She voluntarily accepted what God has offered to her; it was her choice, all her choice, which she accepted with the fullness of her being. She was, in herself, the representation of all humanity to God, and to be this, she had to reach the perfection of the human potential, to be full of grace and so without stain, without any barrier between her and God. It is true, God could have acted as he wished, and forced Mary to accept without her say in the matter, but that is now how God acts. He willingly empties himself of control so that we can have a choice. The perfection of human choice is found only in the perfection of human nature, where its potentiality is not hindered by the unnatural defects of sin. Here, then, thanks to God’s work with Israel, daughter Zion was able to reveal the fullness of humanity and speak in place for all of humanity before God. It was in a woman so full of love, and not in men who sought to make themselves great in front of others with their wealth, power, who was able to receive the transcendent God into her womb. Cooperating and working with God, she showed forth the glory of humanity, the glory of natural goodness and spiritual beauty; it was a woman and only a woman who found herself so full of grace that she could be filled with the Spirit and act in persona of the Spirit, giving birth to the God-man Jesus Christ. Joseph was chosen to be her guardian, her protector, her friend, her companion, but all he could do and did once he had accepted his mission is act with and for her sake. Joseph was willing to empty himself so that Mary can perform her central role in salvation drama; his was a supporting role meant to help and aid her in her staring role on the world stage. Joseph was willing to forego himself so that Christ could be properly born in the world.And yet, as we are told, as there are those who give their aid, their help, as helpmates and midwives to the birth of Christ, there are others who selfishly turned their backs on him. Mary, like her son after, would find no room for herself in the world of sin; she had to take humanity and its perfection back into the cave, a manger, so that Christ could be born:
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Lk. 2:6-7 RSV).
Have we truly learned the lesson of Christmas? Have we understood that the birth of Christ, which happened once in history, continues every day in and through our actions in the world? What we do for the poor, the oppressed, the foreigner, the needy, the widow, the hungry, the wounded, the homeless, the men and women who are hurting in our lives, we do for Christ. In them Christ is to be found. In them, we are able to be midwives to Christ, helping to give birth to him once again in the world. For whatever we do for them, we do for Christ who arises and is born in them. Christmas is not just about the historical birth of Christ. Certainly, he was born in history, God’s gift to his creation, as he came into the world to save it. But this meant he came to reform it from within. Where the damage and harm of sin is overturned, there the work of Christ is to be found. Where we help in that, we help in the birth of Christ.
Today, Christ is born. Today, we glorify him. But is that the end of it? Do we just celebrate the day due to the little joy, grace and peace which we might get thanks to the festivities which we partake? Christ wants to give us so much more. He wants us to do so much more. He wants to connect us to his Mother, Mary. He wants us to see in her the truth of humanity free from the bonds of sin. He wants us to see her and come to her like Joseph, overturning our selfish desires so as to help continue the birth of Christ in the World.
If we want to welcome Christ in the world, what gifts will we bring? Will we show ourselves wise along with the Magi, or will we, in turn, show ourselves foolish like Herod, seeking to put a stop of the continuing birth of Christ in the word?
What are we going to do to have Christ once again born in the world this Christmas?
How will we glorify him?
[Image=Nativity by Duccio di Buoninsegna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
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