Emmanuel. Our Own Story.
Advent and the Christmas Season are here. How wonderful! We have waited all year to immerse ourselves in the story of how the world is offered the encounter with the face of God and history was changed forever.
Enjoy the story as you enjoy the season with family, friends and community. Early in my ministry a cynical priest said to me, “You‘ll not make any Christians at Christmas!” Apart from the strange notion of ‘making’ Christians, the negativity of the comment saddened me. Of course, Christmas is not an escape away from worldly troubles and into a fantasy fairytale but it is the first step into the adventurous world of heaven’s mystery that offers permanent and everlasting joys!
At this special time of the year, we celebrate with the angels that God and heaven overflowed with love and showered the earth with signs and wonders in preparation for the great climax of the birth of the Holy Child in Bethlehem. Allow the story to fill your hearts. Revel in the images of the Angels appearing to the Shepherds and the Magi being led by the star for many months through the heat, cold and dust to pay homage to the physical radiance of God present in the babe who will change the world. Think of Mary’s wonderful and gracious acquiescence to God’s will as the Angel told her that she was his chosen one. See Mary rushing in excitement to Elizabeth where John the Baptist responded by leaping with joy within his mother’s womb. Remember Joseph’s loyalty and the visitation of angels in his dreams to tell him how to ensure the safety of the baby Jesus. The very spirit of the world was responding to heaven’s call by lifting people’s hearts in preparation for the birth of our Lord.
This is the story of God and, as such, is not only fact but is an epic of great mythical truth. Christmas is the beginning of the beautiful truth that is the myth of Emmanuel – God with us. The real essence and beauty of the Incarnation of Our Lord is that it is our story; a complete gift to us. Through the incarnation we become the body of Christ. The Divine Babe is born to die, to know human suffering and after his Ascension he sends us God’s Holy Spirit so he may live within us. Because of this, as we embark on our life with Christ, we, like Jesus, also may hear the Father’s voice saying to us, “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” Heaven and earth are now inseparable and we stand at the point where they meet, carrying our humanity through this veil of tears. We are the Babe in the manger; always being born anew, often helpless but always divine.
Carry the image of the new- born baby, radiant with light as he throws his golden beams into the stable, a divine light that reflects on his parents, the shepherds, the wise men and shines beyond into the world. The birth is the light! It is our light – feel it shine on you, feel how you may carry the light into the world. In this light, all our earthly troubles may then be seen as the shadow of a restless world that is searching for a new life of increased love, unity and fellowship. Embrace the new birth and all the fear and danger will be balanced by an increased peace and goodwill to all people. Think on this and you will always be carrying a prayer for those you love and those for whom Christmas may be one of pain and sorrow. This Christmas, there will be many children of God born to homeless families in stables, caves, hovels and makeshift shelters; through them the Christ-child is born again to redeem the suffering of his created world until we share his burden, realise our own divinity and turn our world to paradise once more.
The Feast of the Epiphany on the 8th January emphasis that Jesus and all that his Incarnation brings is God’s gift to us. The Magi bring gifts that are elemental symbols of the earth presented to Our Lord to complement his divinity as he comes to live among us and through whom we are given a glimpse of eternity. Gold is a symbol of the richness of the earth – for him who shall rule our world. Frankincense and Myrrh are both strong healing plants. The former when used as incense has the quality of enhancing the depth and purity of prayer. This shows that our Lord’s strength is through being the most divine and pure of all men, like incense he will carry our prayers to heaven. The salve of Myrrh has the quality to banish decay and infection, thus symbolically this gift will preserve the babe in body and soul. The Magi have interpreted from the stars that the Christ will die but will live forever, thus they match their gifts accordingly. The scene is already set for the fulfilment of the Passion some thirty years later. It is worth remembering that the story of the Incarnation is a complete and whole event in the history of our world – from our Saviour’s birth until his death and resurrection. The story of Jesus combines joy with sorrow and demonstrates that within our eternal journey, earthly suffering may equal heavenly bliss.
The Blessings of the Christ child be with you and those you love this Christmas and always. Father Paul.