We are entering into the week leading up to Christmas. It is, I suspect, the case that many people do not feel much like Christmas. There is a whole host of reasons for this, but it most likely revolves around one reality: COVID19. Many have lost their lives and that means there are those mourning and grieving who are left behind; many have lost their jobs; many people are stressed out; many people are anxious, and the list goes on. To be sure – there are also those who are looking forward to Christmas – hoping and praying that it will be that “ray of hope” that is so badly needed.
To the former group I want to – I hope to – write something to encourage you. I want to, right up front, acknowledge what you are experiencing. I also want to encourage you not to allow what you are going through due to COVID or anything else, to define you. This may sound easier said than done but this is not just a motivational talk or motivational writing. Rather this writing is more of a finger pointing in a certain direction or more accurately it is pointing to a certain person. That person is now in his mother’s womb and will be in “that crib” that is the focus of so much attention at this time of the year.
There are many reasons for anyone of us to “look in” — that is to kind of sink into ourselves and feel lost or isolated and lonely. We need to “look out” and look to the one who has always thought of us – he actually willed us into existence through our parents – who thinks of us and will always be with us, who always loves us and that is Jesus Christ, True God and True man.
This last week before the celebration of Christ’s birth there will be many things that draw us in. The malls will certainly not be as full as they were last year; so-called “Boxing Day” which is for us Catholics the Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen will be much quieter (and while I want businesses to succeed there is a ‘madness’ about the day after Christmas that is not good for people!).
We need a quieter Saint Stephen’s Day. It is a day to not only reflect on what we have just celebrated – to let it really sink in and enjoy it – but we need to remember that this “little baby” is here for a purpose and that purpose it not to live but to die. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? It is not if we get serious about our faith and really look at that child – let Him draw us in – and realize that the Shepherds are worshiping him; Mary and Joseph are worshipping him; Angels are announcing his arrival with the greatest of jubilation. This little child is here for war – yes, my brothers and sisters … this child is here for war!
CS Lewis said that “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” (Mere Christianity). Why disguise – because Satan would never attack God head on – he knows he cannot win that battle. But Satan would attack someone he saw as being human even though “holy and righteous” and so on. And so, the King came cloaked in the guise of human nature.
So this is Christmas – it is the beginning of a supernatural, cosmic D-Day and the number of the allies who are going to take on the enemy is One and that “One” lays in a crib looking helpless, needing food and swaddling cloths to keep warm and food to sustain his mortal nature. He looks so helpless — his disguise is so complete. The baby is here to fight for us, for you and for me. This baby loves us so much he is going to lure the enemy into a trap making him think that he is going to be victorious and thus will the victory be accomplished.
St Stephen was the first of his “red witnesses” (Martyrs by blood) showing us that the words of the child truly transform a human heart and give one the courage to what he will do “lay down your life for the Truth and those you love.”
Let us allow this baby – Jesus Christ – to draw us in; let us open our heart to Him so that we may have union with him, friendship wit him and thus be transformed by him. Let us be willing and wanting to be his “white martyrs” (Martyrs by daily witness)
Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his friends. This child will not only speak these words but live these words. If we live them, we will experience the same victory that he did.
So – as many things compete for your attention and seek to “draw you in” – into yourself, into buying, into too much eating or drinking or screen time – listen to him, look at him and let him draw you in. Fall in love with him for his love is the only worthy love of our entire heart, mind, body and soul.
Let the child draw you in and if you do – no matter what you have or don’t have – you will have a blessed, holy and merry Christmas. You will know that you are loved and no one can take that away.
Fr Bruce-John Hamilton