Each Christmas season, as carols fill the December air, we remember ourselves.
We’re awakened by this remembering as we treasure Christmas memories. A nostalgic escape, this process of remembering is a profoundly human act. In the Bethlehem story, we see ourselves. If in the birth of Jesus, God’s only son (a mystery known as Incarnation), we discover beauty, simplicity, poverty and vulnerability. Then we can find that same God in the simplicity and poverty and vulnerability of our lives, our relationships and our society.
There is a profoundly simple message in the Christmas story for all women and men of good will.
The Word of God took flesh in the womb of a young girl of Nazareth, who trusted a strange angelic visitor. She was in an irregular situation: Her husband, not the father of the child she was carrying, could have disowned her. But an angel appeared to him in a dream, and Joseph cherished Mary and the child to be born.
The child was greeted at his birth not by the powerful and mighty, nor by leaders of the religious establishment of the day. Rather it was the poor – shepherds and strangers, probably Zorastrian astrologers from the East – who came to pay homage to this helpless baby in a manger.
No one described the whole scene better than Pope Francis this past September at a Vigil Ceremony for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He told the crowd of over one million people gathered on Benjamin Franklin Parkway: “And where did God send his Son? To a palace, to a city, to an office building? He sent him to a family. God came into the world in a family. And he could do this because that family was a family with a heart open to love, a family whose doors were open.”
This little family was humble, poor, faithful and knew the life of refugees, having to flee to Egypt (or most likely Gaza) to avoid the terror of a despotic ruler.
The feast of Christmas reminds humanity of one profound message: that God has mixed with the human family and loved them all – the women and the men, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those who love and those who hate.
And only God knows who is close and who is far from him. Who are we to judge?
At Christmas we are taught where to find God: in the midst of humanity, in the thick and thin of the human race, in the smiles and tears of every newborn baby, in the wrinkled faces of the elderly. We find Him in the suffering of the dying, in the hospitality to strangers and the poor among us, in the cherished gift of friendship, and in the welcome of refugees. And we can find Him in the bold, courageous leadership of a young Prime Minister who goes against the tide of other political leaders not far from our borders, who have put up barriers and shields to keep strangers out because of fear.
Anyone who really understands that God became human at one shining moment in human history over 2,000 years ago in an outpost of the Roman Empire will never be able to speak and act in an inhumane way.
That is what the real spirit of Christmas is all about.
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015
Father Thomas Rosica is the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and assistant to the Holy See Press Office.
*This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail