DECEMBER 25, 2016 & JANUARY 1, 2017
A chap died and went to heaven. At the Pearly Gates, St. Peter said he was the day's lucky customer and he could sit next to anybody in heaven at the Christmas party they were having that night. He thought for a while then said he would like to sit next to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Later that night, as some people were leaving, Mary asked him, "Why, of all people, did you want to sit next to me?" He replied, "I have always wanted to ask you - why in all the paintings, etc. I have seen of you on earth, did you always look rather sad and never a smiled? She looked at him and said, "Between you and me, I was rather hoping for a girl."
This story somehow illustrates the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. When we use the word incarnation what we literally mean is Christ becoming flesh. He, God the Son, takes on our humanity. He stoops down and becomes one of us. It is a great mystery and how this occurs we do not, indeed cannot, know precisely; we only know that it did happen and that in the person of Jesus both natures are to be found for he is truly God and truly man.
We are all aware that many people in the modern world are quite unclear as to the precise reasons for this celebration. They are perhaps confused by reindeer, ribbons, holly, sleigh rides, Santa Claus and winter solstices—the stuff on Christmas Cards. But we who gather in Church on this most holy night, are quite clear, absolutely certain why we are at the Mass and what this feast is all about.
We know we are celebrating the Nativity of our Lord and Savior. We know we are celebrating the Incarnation of Christ our Lord. And we rejoice and we proclaim this Good News: We light candles, ring bells, we exchange gifts, and we sing carols and make as much commotion as we can because we know we are celebrating the birth of Christ our King. We do all these things because of what his birth means for the world. We do them because we truly believe that it was this event that brought light into darkness, this event that brought real hope to our world. We do it because we are certain that this is the beginning of the very best thing that ever happened to mankind.
What makes Christ’s birth different to all other births is that on that night in Bethlehem a Savior was born to us. Christ came into the world for a purpose and this was to bring us salvation; and by this we mean the forgiveness of our sins and the opening up of the way to everlasting life with God in heaven.
Christ came into our world in order to bring us into his world. And for us to be fit for heaven we need to be healed from the harmful effects of sin, to be purified in the waters of Baptism and, through the teachings of Christ, to come to know and love God. This is why Christmas is so important, this is why this night is so holy; this is why we come to Church in the middle of a cold and dark winter’s night. We come to reverence the crib, we come in sorrow for our sins, we come to have our hopes rekindled, and we come to pray for our loved ones and for the world; but we come above all to pay honor and glory to God who has done this greatest of all things and given to us a Savior, Christ the Lord.
And most importantly, there is reverence to be paid to the Christ Child and his Holy Mother and father. We kneel before the crib and place in his outstretched hands our prayers and anxieties. We worship our Divine Savior who now comes into the world as a vulnerable child and we reflect on what this action has to teach us.
May the God of peace bless each and every one of you! May he bring joy and peace to your families, may he bathe you in his light and love, and may he guide and protect you in the coming year.
Happy New Year