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The word this week

Beyond the tinsel of Christmas

The Nativity of the Lord: Is 52:7-10; Ps 98; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-1
Mary, the Mother of God: Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

By on Saturday, 24 December 2011

Beyond the tinsel of Christmas

Christmas celebrates the God who, in Christ Jesus, became the Word that we have heard, that we have seen with our own eyes, that we have watched and touched with our own hands. The intimacy of this communion, revealed in the earthiness
of our common humanity, is reflected in the Christmas readings.

The Prophet Isaiah summons us as a people that walked in darkness. His words bring hope to the darkness that must, at some time, afflict every generation and each individual. We cannot escape the shadows of our own sinfulness, nor can we always overcome the insecurities that darken our hopes for the future. It was to our hidden selves, to our every fear and uncertainty, that Isaiah addressed his words of hope: “On those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase.”

These words reach beyond the tinsel of Christmas and address the uncertainties of a generation whose confidence has been severely undermined. Prosperity and social stability, the quality of family life and peace of mind, have been undermined over the last year. However we express our hopes for healing, we long for Isaiah’s promised Prince of Peace. We long for a peace that will have no end, for a world rooted in justice and integrity.

The narratives of Christ’s birth undoubtedly resonate with happy memories of family and childhood. Their purpose, however,
is more than mere sentiment.

St Luke pointedly contrasts the power proclaimed by the census of Caesar Augustus with the humility of Christ’s birth. This, in itself, challenges our own expectations. Where do we seek peace in our restless lives? Do we surrender our hopes to the promises and power of a purely secular world, or do we turn to the child born at Bethlehem?

Through the birth of his Son the Father spoke, as he had never spoken before, to the heart of a broken world. His Word was spoken not to the powerful of this world, but to forgotten shepherds, to those who had no place at the courts of Herod and Caesar. Through the Holy Spirit those words had been first whispered in Mary’s gentle soul, and her humble response made our poverty God’s dwelling place.

The full wonder of this mystery was unfolded at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Here, the Apostle reached beyond time, to a beginning when the Word was with the Father, infinitely beyond any human hope or expectation.

This is the Word that called creation into being, whose glory is reflected in the wonder and beauty of our universe. This is the Word that speaks to all that we are and all that we hope to become. This is the Light that our deepest darkness could never overpower. This is the Power that enables us to proclaim what we could never speak of ourselves: that in him we are
the children of God.

The celebration of Mary as the Mother of God continues the unfolding of this mystery. Mary treasured these things in heart, devoting herself to the life entrusted to her. She never ceased to wonder that, in the birth of her Son, Moses’s ancient blessing had found its fulfilment. In Christ the Father blesses and keeps us, lets his face shine upon us, uncovers his face to us and brings us peace. Let us, with Mary, treasure this blessing in our hearts.