So, we gather again to celebrate the joys and mysteries of Christmas. The celebrations are grounded in the realities of a young pregnant woman tired and harried after a very arduous journey. Many of us are tired and harried after many days and nights of preparations. Many are tired and harried after another year of this horrible pandemic along with the arrival of new strains. Many are tired and harried by a pervasive political and social war that has encompassed us as a nation pitting folks against each other based upon false narratives of superiority and threatened existence.
For many in the world as much there are Christmas lights decorating properties their homes can be overshadowed by much gloom and doom. We witness the daunting effects of climate change not only in warm December days but horrible tornadoes in the Midwest states. We are facing times in which there seem to be no stability in daily life and threats to the many institutions which held our society together. Hope seems lost and tomorrow is to be feared whether it is given a date of 2022 or 2024.
It is into that world the real story of Christmas is to be rediscovered and proclaimed. “The people who sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (Mathew 4: 16) For Christians this not a fairy tale but the very essence of our faith. We believe and proclaim that God in is His tender loving mercy perceived the world as dwelling in an atmosphere no different from the chaos out of which He called His creation. That chaotic world according to Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” It is into that void God spoke and his transformative power bought life to a world of darkness.
That, at its very core is our Christmas message. “For God so loved us he gave us His son Jesus” (Jn 3:16) And yet a careful look at the scriptures will reveal that the message of God was carried forth not by an overwhelming crowd, but it relied heavily upon a few who were willing to carry God’s light into a world of darkness. The story of Christmas this year for me is about the willingness and bravery of being a light bearer in a world and time of smothering darkness.
The darkness oftentimes is not the exterior oppressive weight of socio/politics but the smothering of truth and hope by cynicism, fear, and greed. Sometimes our greatest challenge is not the external but demonic forces that can be masked as inner voices which depletes faith and hope. Christmas is not about wishful optimism but a faith journey. The difference lies in the willingness to make the sacrifice for the outcome.
The story of Christmas is about a few people who were willing to embark upon epic journeys of faith. The story is about Mary’s willingness to surrender her body, integrity and youth for her spirituality and belief in the work and power of God. The story of Joseph’s willingness to surrender his machismo to the will of God. The story of the Shepherds willingness to abandon their flocks in the middle of the night and so jeopardizing their livelihood based upon some heavenly vision. These can only be outshone by the willingness of Jesus to surrender His deity to become human.
Christian friends all of these acts can be bundled up like swaddling clothes to give testimony of God’s power and love. The greatest act of love is self-surrender.
The transmission of God’s power and love depends upon those who are willing to see the darkness and yet boldly carry a flickering light proclaiming, “Joy to The Lord has come”.
One has to be aware of the risk the first Christmas bearers accepted as their fate. To proclaim the arrival of a greater power than prevailing political or business interests was in many ways an existential threat. No different than today when teaching authentic history lessons can lead to death threats to librarians and school educators. To be a light-bearer, one must be willing to perceive that salvation depends upon the generosity of love. The world will speak of credit and loans, politicians will speak in derision of handouts to the poor while providing largesse to special interests. The Christian will speak of God’s grace and mercy in a bold attempt to testify of God’s overflowing love. The light bearer will be God’s light of grace and mercy. The Christian testifies like Mary of forgiveness and reparation.
My dear people of God the one wish I have for each of us at this Christmas is that as we open our Christmas gifts let them be reminders not of our worth and value but the generosity of the giver. My simple wish is for the Christian to rediscover the spirit of generosity. We are today the beneficiaries of the generosity of others. Christmas is about the generosity of faith in action. Let this be our story. For too long we have allowed grinch-like behavior to take hold of our church and faith. Generosity must be reflected in our stewardship to God’s earth and to the work of His church in the world. At the first Christmas only a few generous people made a miraculous sacrifice to give us the gift of God’s love which is a Spirit that can never die. Can you imagine if more of us join with the angels and archangels to sing glory to God not only for His generosity but as a Eucharistic act celebration of our willingness to carry the light of God into the darkness? The same anthem awaits each of us if we're willing to act in generosity. Give to God until you have nothing more to give and then your stewardship begins. Give your love beyond your comfort zone in order to truly experience love. Give your heart to Jesus and He will give you wholeness of living. The message of generosity is the same from then to now "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Now go carry the light of God into the world.