Isaiah 9; 1 – 6
Gospel Luke 2; 1 – 14
The reading from Isaiah begins with, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” This is a powerful image that describes the world before the birth of Christ and the transformation that began with his birth. Light is very much involved in the birth of Christ and Christmas. From the “glory of the Lord,” that shone around the shepherds, to the Star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to Christ, light seems to be breaking forth with the birth of Jesus. Lights on Christmas trees, in and on houses, lawn displays, and lights on Main Streets and town squares all point to Jesus, the Light of the World. There are many voices that call these lights “holiday decorations” and claim they have no religious significance, but, as it says elsewhere in the Gospels, you don’t hide a light under a bushel basket. There would be no holiday if there hadn’t been the holy day of Jesus’ birth.
In the midst of the busyness that has become more and more a part of Christmas it is important for us not to lose sight of what we are doing. We might wish people, “Merry Christmas,” and put “Christmas Lights” on our houses, and even send “Christmas Cards”, but be careful not to get this holy day out of focus. Let us not trivialize the beautiful Gospels that we hear on Christmas that speak to us of the birth in the little town of Bethlehem, in a manger in a stable, and the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Christmas is the day that begins the season for us to remember and celebrate how loved we are by God. It is sometimes difficult to accept the fact that we are loved unconditionally by God, but this is precisely what we celebrate, the total and complete, no-strings-attached, love God has for us. The best way to begin our celebration of Christmas is to open our hearts to this great love. God does not withhold his love from us, however, we can have attitudes of inadequacy, self-hatred, shame, and so on, that prevent us from experiencing the love of God being poured out on us. Begin celebrating Christmas by removing anything in our lives that stands in the way of our being able to accept this love.
In his First letter, John writes, “We love because God first loved us.” I Jn 4:19 When we accept God’s love allow it to change our hearts so that we can truly love God. Thank the Father for his love, and for sending us his son, and blessing us with the Holy Spirit. Let prayers, both formal and spontaneous, come from our hearts. When we visit the crèche take time to thank Jesus for humbling himself to become one of us, and tell him how much we love him.
This renewed awareness, and hopefully experience, of God’s love for us and our love for God deepens our relationship with God. The Mass becomes more than something we have become accustomed to attending, but rather a mystery of God’s love and presence that we enter into.
This will hopefully lead us to rediscover that that same unconditional love for us, is being poured out upon everyone. We can welcome the presence of Jesus in 2014, and throughout 2015 by sharing the unconditional love given to us with all those around us. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. May his light shine brightly within us, and may it shine forth from us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.