Father Darren’s 2022 Christmas Message …
Nearly every one of you could tell the Christmas story. Most of us know it well.
The Christmas Story
A young virgin named Mary conceives a child by the Holy Spirit. She and her betrothed, Joseph, travel to Bethlehem by order of the emperor. There Mary gives birth to Jesus and places him in a manger because there is no room in the inn.
Heavenly lights flood the earth, and angels announce the good news. Shepherds leave the fields and their flocks to come to see the new-born baby. Everyone is praising God Luke 2:1-20.
For many of us, that is the extent of the Christmas story. It ends with the birth of the baby Jesus. That is, however, only part of the story. There is another part of the story that we do not often hear or tell.
The Christmas Story – Part Two
The second part of the story is when the angels stop singing and go back into heaven, and the shepherds return to the fields.
At some point, Mary and Joseph will gather their things together, pick up Jesus, and travel home to Nazareth.
That is the part of the story that is often left untold. It is that part when everything looks like it did before the birth, when the manger is again empty, the night sky is again dark and silent, and the shepherds are again living in the fields keeping watch over their flocks.
That does not, however, signal the end of Christmas. It is, rather, the beginning. Christmas begins when we stop talking about the story and allow our lives to become the story.
A couple of days or maybe a week after Christmas, our family and friends will have returned to their homes. The leftovers will be thrown out. Decorations will be taken down. Bills will be coming in. The children will be back in school and parents back at work. Like the shepherds, we will return to the fields and flocks of our lives, to the routine of daily life. Everything will look like it did before the birth.
But looks can be deceiving. Who would have ever guessed that God would become human with flesh, blood, skin, and hair, a body just like ours? Who could have imagined that a young virgin would give God human life? Who would have thought that our Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord, the one for whom we have waited, would come among us as a baby?
The Miracle of Christmas is in You
We need to hear and trust the second part of the story. It tells us that the miracle of Christmas is not in the virgin birth, the heavenly light, the angelic appearances, or the songs of the heavenly host. The miracle of Christmas is in you.
The invisible God is now seen in a human face. The eternal Word is now spoken by a human tongue. Sacred touch is now given by human hands. Yours is the face. Yours is the tongue. Yours are the hands. The glorious exchange of gifts was completed in the birth of Jesus. God has given us divinity, and we have given God humanity.
St Luke tells us all this happens in the most ordinary places and circumstances. It happens even as a government orders a census and taxation. It happens in the midst of travels, crowds, and over-booked hotels. It happens in the darkness and fear of an unknown future. It happens with the birth of a baby. It happens while working the night shift.
Jesus’s birth did not take the shepherds out of the fields or away from the sheep. Before Jesus was born, they were shepherds living in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. After Jesus was born, they were shepherds living in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.
Jesus is Born Into Your Life
Jesus’ birth does not allow us to escape the reality of our life and world. It is just the opposite. Jesus is born into the circumstances of our life and world. There is no place you go or situation you encounter into which Jesus is not being born.
Look at your life. What do you see? Name the reality, whatever it might be, because that is where Jesus is born, and God’s divinity meets your humanity.
He is born in your life’s joys, celebrations, and thanksgiving. He is born in your life’s sorrow, losses, and grief. He is born in times of hopes and fears, in your words and in your silence. He is born in your successes and accomplishments as well as your failures and disappointments.
The salvation of God’s presence, love, and healing fills every aspect of your life. So let the angels depart, and the shepherds return to the fields. Let the sky become dark and silent. Let the Holy Family go home. Let Christmas become real.
The manger Jesus was placed in is not in Bethlehem now. Your life is his manger, and that, as the angel said, is ‘good news of great joy’.