On Christmas we heard these wonderful words which brought about our salvation: “While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”
I have been called into delivery rooms shortly after a baby has born – but I have never been present for the birth of a child.
I can well imagine, though – the last thing a mother or a father wants after sometimes a very lengthy delivery – is what happens to this young couple right after the birth of their sacred child:
“The shepherds (definitely in the plural) went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant- lying in a manger.”
Next week we will hear of the three wisemen or magi (again, definitely in the plural) who were “overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother.”
From these Scriptures we know that Mary and Joseph and Jesus – had a lot of visitors. All of them invited by God in some way –but probably a pain and an inconvenience for the Holy Family with a new baby in the house.
Perhaps we felt the same way about some of the visitors and guests we encountered during these holydays. . .
It is almost inevitable each year that Chrsitmas time can become a very stressful time.
Christmas often gathers family and friends. Sometimes the most difficult relationships of our lives all coming together in one place at one time.
Who among us, in our experience of Christmas, did not have some difficult experience with someone?
A word was said meanly. An old wound was re-opened. Someone was going through a hard time and was coping very badly.
We rediscovered how much someone really drives us crazy. And O the things that can annoy us!
And alcohol - intended as a traditional holiday element to add cheer – can make everything worse.
Christmas is about the Love of God coming into the world to be the light in the midst of the world’s darkness. Christmas is about the invitation to receive the light of Christ into our own hearts and to let that light shine in us and through us as it did in Jesus.
To be a disciple of light, we have to let go of the darkness and let the light into our hearts.
We have to forgive. We have to be patient. We have to try to understand and accept others for who they are and where they are.
We have to love the way Christ loved.
And the only way we can do all this is to continue to let the healing grace of Christmas touch us.
Since we do not get to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on a Sunday this year – the price of Christmas being on a Sunday – perhaps it will do us well to reflect on these words of Pope Francis. The Holy Father said in one of his Sunday Angelus addresses:
We are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ and bear fruit in our lives - to get rid of the behaviors that are not Christian.
This path of life begins in Baptism when we are illuminated by Christ. Through our Baptism we are called to carry ourselves as children of the light - with humility, patience, and mercy.
The Sacrament of Baptism demands a choice- firm and decided, to live as children of the light and to walk in the light of Christ.
What does it mean to walk in the light? It means first of all abandoning all the false lights of the world like the cold and foolish light of prejudices against others.
Another false light which is so seductive is self-interest.
Pope Francis concludes by praying:
May the blessed virgin Mary, who first welcomed Jesus, the light of the world – grant us grace to welcome again this Christmas season the light of faith and rediscover the inestimable gift of Baptism.
And may this enlightenment transform us – both in attitudes and in actions - starting from our poverty of littleness, to be bearers of a ray of Christ’s light.
Mary knew the poverty of littleness of which Pope Francis speaks quite well. She knew that innocence is born in poverty and suffers greatly in trying to be faithful to the way of Christ.
And it is why she kept all the greetings and gifts and commotions, and disturbances, and annoyances her many postnatal visitors brought to her – reflecting on them in her heart.
So as we celebrate this feast, and begin a new year:
May the Lord bless and keep us. May the Lord let his face shine upon us and be gracious to us. May the Lord give us the grace we need - to bear the light of Christ into the darkness of world. AMEN!
Moments in time...