Wednesday 24 December 2014

December 25, 2014 - Christmas makes us who we really are

To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18

The birth of every child brings the message that God wants the world to continue, that he is not yet fed up with the ingratitude and sinfulness of the human race. In most cultures in the world, the birth of a child is a cause for great rejoicing and celebration. How much more profound and joyful must this celebration be if the child, born in our midst, is the Son of God?

Christmas is the birth, not merely of a child, but the birth of the child who would change the destiny of humans forever. It is the celebration of the unconditional love of a gracious and generous God who holds nothing back but gives of his very self. It is the celebration of the fact that God wanted so much to be part of the human race that he took on flesh and blood, and thus, became limited so that he could reveal to us our own limitlessness.

This is what the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews speaks about. Though God had been constantly conversing with humanity from the beginning of creation, through prophets and kings, through blessings and punishments, these did not seem to have had the desired effect. Humanity, as a whole, moved further and further away from God. Thus, in the fullness of time, God decided that the way to draw people back to himself would be if he became one like them, in every aspect of their being. This was so that he could feel with our feelings, think with our thoughts and, in doing so, show us who we are meant to be.

The prologue of John, which is the Gospel text for today, echoes this idea when, at the centre, it speaks about the “logos” (the word) becoming “sarx” (flesh) and dwelling among us. This means that the abstract, the indecipherable, the incomprehensible, and the inconceivable, through one decisive act, become concrete, decipherable, comprehensible, and conceivable. The impossible has become possible.

The possibilities that the birth of Jesus have opened up are innumerable. No longer is humanity a disadvantage or a limitation. No longer is humanity something to be looked down upon or to be ashamed of. No longer is humanity weakness. After the birth of Jesus, humanity takes on a new look and a new meaning. Now, there are no limits. Now, humanity need not be confined.  Now, there are no restrictions on how far we can go.  Jesus has shown the way.

However, even as this is true, there is another, and sad, side to the story. The prologue explains it by stating that “the darkness tried to overcome the light”, and “he came unto his own, but his own received him not”. Surprising, astounding, and startling as this may sound, it was true of the time when Jesus came.  It continues to be true even today. Darkness constantly tries to overcome light.

Why would darkness try to overcome the light? Why would his own not receive him? The answer to these questions can be found in the person of Jesus and all for which he stands. First, when he came, he did not come as many were expecting, in pomp, in splendour, and in glory. He did not come, as many would have wanted, mounted on a horse. He did not choose to be born in a palace, as kings usually are. He came in humility, in nothingness, and in total helplessness. He came in the form of a child. This kind of a God seemed, and still seems, an aberration to some and they cannot, they will not, accept him. Second, in a world where authority is interpreted as domination and where rulers expect to be served and not to serve, Jesus’ approach of interpreting authority as service, and his desire to serve and not be served, was regarded as an anomaly. Third, when all logic seems to point to the fact that it is better to have more and accumulate as much as one can for oneself rather than share with others, the life of Jesus, a life spent for the well being of others, was an abnormality. In other words, when Jesus came, he did not fit the pre-conceived and stereotyped notions that people had. He was different, and difference, because it may not be understood, is often rejected.

Yet, despite this rejection of the Word, there is a note of hope and promise.  There continue to be people who will choose light over darkness, who will choose selflessness over selfishness. There will continue to be people who will fight for justice and will never give up this cause. There will continue to be people who will generously give, not only of their wealth, but also, of themselves, in imitation of the one who became human and gave all. Those who opt for the light can continue to do so because their openness to the Incarnate Word and all that he stands for makes them open to receive grace upon grace from him. This abundance of grace continues to sustain them through the most trying times.  It gives them the courage never to give up or to give in, but to continue and carry on.

By taking on our humanity, Jesus has shown us that we can be divine. He has shown us how far we can go, even in our humanity. We can love more, we can dare more, we can believe more, and we can be more. Nothing is now outside the scope of our humanity which, after the birth of Jesus, is no longer a limitation but an advantage. The oracle of Isaiah, composed towards the end of the exile, and which announces the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, finds its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus. Captivity and limitation have come to an end. Now, only freedom and limitlessness are real.

Thus, Christmas is not merely the celebration of a historical birth that took place over two thousand years ago. It is about becoming conscious of who we really are as human beings. It is the celebration of life in all its fullness. It is the celebration of the transformation of limit to limitlessness, of selfishness to selflessness, of bondage to freedom, and of fear to unconditional love.

Those who dare to accept the light and walk in its ways begin to realize that God, himself, walks with them and ahead of them. They know that God does not stay distant from them, remote and isolated.  Rather, they know that, in Jesus, God chose to live with humanity in the midst of human weakness, confusion, and pain. This bond holds true for all times and all places. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. It is to love, to grieve, and someday, to die. The incarnation binds Jesus to the “everydayness” of human experience. The Word lived among us, not simply in the world. The Word became flesh and the Word’s name is Jesus Christ. This Jesus continues to be born in our midst, even today. When selflessness triumphs over selfishness, when generosity triumphs over greed, and when light overcomes darkness, then is Jesus born, again, and again, and every day is Christmas.

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