Christmas, for many, seems to be about gifts, and friends, and outward joy. For others, however, Christmas is a riddle, a puzzle, a conundrum, wrapped in sacrifice and suffering. Christmas, for many, is the message of God's Love--Incarnate--in a life of success and happiness. For others, Christmas is the mystery of God's sustenance--in faith--amidst failure and pain and loss.
Yet, within these two diverse experiences, Christmas is held together in the newborn babe of Bethlehem.
"Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, "As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them;
they shall again live on their own land." Jeremiah 23:5-8
Tell that to a man three years unemployed. Tell that to a homeless person, robbed, and beaten, on multiple occasions. Tell that to a political prisoner, held in Iran, for the 'crime' of preaching the gospel, while his country (the United States of America) ignores his families pleas for help. Tell that to a victim of genocide. Tell that to someone rejected, dejected, and forgotten, long enough to commit suicide. Tell that to an aborted baby. Tell that to a rape victim. Tell that to the ostracized, excommunicated from the world for 'physical inadequacies.' Tell that to a bullied child.
Yet the babe did, 33 years later, from the cold and splintery Cross.
"For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save." Psalm 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
Tell that to all those who pray for a job only to meet with further rejection. Tell that to Catholics who follow the Church's teaching, only to suffer under a Socialist zealot because of the voting record of 'cafeteria' Catholic's. Tell that to all the people dumped from health insurance in the name of 'affordable care.' Tell that to the victims of a natural disaster in the Philippines. Tell that to sidewalk Pro-Lifers, as thousands of abortions are performed only yards away, every day. Tell that to the millions who go to bed hungry around our world--only to die as bug food a few days later. Tell that to a world under the control of ideologues armed with nuclear weapons.
Yet the babe did, 33 years later, from the dark and dreary garden of Gethsemane.
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her." Matthew 1:18-25
Mary certainly didn't dream of giving birth to a child as a Virgin. Yet, in faith, through much confusion, she said 'yes' to the angel, and our Savior was born. Joseph certainly didn't expect his betrothed to be pregnant, when he had not 'known her.' Yet, in faith, through much confusion, he said 'yes' to the angel, and our Savior was born. Likewise, within the confines our own poverty, loneliness, persecution, addiction, struggles with sin, physical ailments, or whatever nails us to our cross, we too can say 'yes' to the Spirit of Christmas, giving birth to the mysterious Christ within us.
This may not be an overt joyous birth, as it appears in the successful and the happy; yet, it will be a birth of the real Christ-of-the-world nonetheless. For in the overt joy of Christmas--which is the rich person's reward--there is also a 33 year pause for Gethsemane and the Cross--the covert reward of the poor, yet faithful, in the Resurrection unto Life!
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