December 21, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

A prayerful celebration of Christmas is our ‘thank you’ to God

A baby boy lying in a manger is called the Light of the World and the Word made flesh. How strange and how abstract: to call a person a light and a word. Yet, if we stop to think of circumstances some 2,000 years ago, maybe it doesn’t seem so strange.

Then, as now, a light in the darkness meant a lot. We get upset when the electricity “goes out.” That was the normal condition then. Fire went out much quicker and more often.

In the days before newspapers and books—many centuries before our ­instantaneous means of contemporary communication—the truth about things, the news, and just general information was learned through the face-to-face spoken word. Messengers and storytellers and rabbis (teachers) were a lifeline.

The boy named Jesus would come from God as a light in the darkness and a teacher, storyteller and messenger. He became light. He became God’s Word of love.

Ever since Adam and Eve, our human family has been plagued by another kind of darkness and ignorance. Sin and tragic human error mark our lives. There is the darkness and ignorance which spawn jealousy and murder, stealing and war.

Cain hated Abel, his own brother, because of the blinding darkness of jealousy; he commited the first murder. In our cities and towns, brother kills brother for drugs and the money to purchase painkilling drugs.

It would only be a short time before an unfaithful husband in ignorance hates his wife because he blindly loves only himself, and he discards her to use another.

Even more so today, victims of broken love discover the worst kind of darkness. Man and woman, intended to be complementary partners for life, become estranged and separated and lonely.

Distrust adds the bitter spice to the fright of darkness. Only God could bring light and knowledge to our human family hopelessly lost in darkness and ignorance.

His own Son became one of us to be the saving light and the trustworthy word of truth. He came to reveal God who is faithful love itself.

Christmas is a feast of love. In the manger in a dark stable with dumb animals, Christ began to shine as the Light of the World and the Word of truth. It began with a little boy born of a loving mother and watched over by a courageous father in a dark stable.

Those of us who know the story of the stable and the simple birth of the Savior have a special obligation to our troubled world. The torch has been handed on to us. How are we to be the light and spread the Word?

Christ once said that the world would know we were his if we have love, one for another.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” he urged. “Turn the other cheek; forgive your enemy seventy times seven; feed the hungry; clothe the naked.”

Our colored lights and Nativity sets remind us of the promise of the Christmas story and our part in it. They also remind us to thank God for his Christmas gift!

Christmas celebrates the mystery which offers the only path of human security. And it is a free gift. God is in charge of all destiny; we don’t have to be. His is the master plan to make everything finally work out.

The string attached to the great Christmas gift of “God coming to live among us as light and word of love” is that we believe in and accept his love, and that we know that this life is not the whole story. It all goes together and it starts with Christmas. Jesus did something to human destiny.

When we celebrate his birth, we celebrate the remarkable fact that God came to be one of us and to show us how to live and to love and, yes, to die in this passing world. We celebrate the fact that he won for us the promise that there is so much more to this life than meets the eye.

We have much to think and pray about as we kneel before the Christmas manger. The promise of our salvation began in the darkness of that humble cave in Bethlehem.

The greatest Christmas gift is God himself! The gift is free, and it is for all of us who are holy and unholy alike. A prayerful celebration of Christmas is our “thank you.”

A warm and heartfelt “thank you” to all of you who do so much to help carry the Christmas light of truth and hope in central and southern Indiana. God bless you all! My Midnight Mass will be for all of you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and God’s choicest blessings for 2008! †

Local site Links: