December 22, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Human possibility comes with Christ’s birth

Cynthia DewesImagine a world in which God chose not to send a Messiah, the Christ Child of this seasonal celebration. What would the world be like?

For one thing, there would be no limit to despair. Hopelessness would be the human condition, with evil rampant in every aspect of life. There would be no apparent reason to choose the good, leaving selfishness as the only sensible motive for human behavior.

Survival and self-interest would rule out of necessity. Babies would be born of simple lust rather than love, and nurtured only to serve their elders and keep them from extinction.

Pleasure would come, not from human relationships or spiritual abstractions, but solely from filling elemental human needs: finding enough food to stave off hunger, having sex, sleeping under shelter and staying warm. The good of the community, as in cooperative farming or hunting, would be an afterthought if it even existed.

The powerful would lead by sheer force or physical dominance. Ordinary people would follow these tribal leaders and do their will in order to stay alive in a reasonably stable existence. They would use the Earth and its creatures without any thought to care or preservation of their usefulness.

War and fighting in general would be the only way people resolved their differences. And their differences would be primitive rather than ideological or spiritual. The powerful would send the weak to die in battle, not for the common good, but for their personal gain of more territory, greater wealth or other people to turn into slaves.

Often, these leaders would make themselves into objects of worship since everyone would know they were the source of their security. Again, ordinary people would be the ones providing the required offerings at the altars of greed.

Life would be a pretty bleak prospect for most folks, and joy as we know it would be almost impossible. The best people could hope for would be physical survival without injury or cruel subjugation.

Luckily, our loving God did send us a Messiah, and we have the happy feast of Christmas to remember and celebrate that fact. If despair is the condition of a world without Christ, hope is the nature of Christ’s world.

But does this mean that all is sweetness and joy now? Are war, meanness and greed eliminated from human life? Well, no. We’re not exactly home free. We have the privilege of hope but, as with most privileges, it comes attached to responsibilities as well.

Our free will, like Christ, is a gift from God. And so we have the responsibility to work, to raise kids, to live with neighbors, in fact, to do everything we do in life according to God’s will. God has given us the responsibility not to waste our opportunity.

We can make babies out of love and commit to them and their other parent for life. We can perform our work the absolutely best way we’re able. We can be truly present for everyone we meet, we can listen, we can lift them up with affection and concern. We can care for our Earth and resolve our differences with patience and reason.

We can do everything with hope and optimism because that is what Christ brings to our human world. Merry Christmas, indeed!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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