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Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Meaning of it All?

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

This time of year is wrought with competing images, two of which having become all too familiar. The first being the commercialized “hustle and bustle,” including Christmas lights and decorations, family visits, radio stations playing ‘round the clock Christmas songs, big meals, and, of course, lots of presents. The other being the annual hand-wringing about the need to “put Christ back into Christmas” by proclaiming the Gospel, helping the needy, and worshipping. For all its noble intent, this too often becomes, if not cliché, then only a temporary sentiment. Nevertheless, there are common elements between these images that can guide us throughout the year.

Let us consider that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, AND that the Word came forth from a hole in the earth. We are familiar with the story of the Christ child in manger (no crib for a bed and all) but what is often forgotten is the nature of first-century Palestinian stables, namely that they were caves. So, not only was the Son of God born like an ordinary baby, and just as dependent on a mother, but, though His mother was only a traveler, He entered the world in the manner of an outcast. It is clear that once Jesus’ birth (like an outlaw) occurred, the concept of the place of the outlaw, the outcast, or the poor man changed radically. Just as man is elevated by God assuming his form, more too are the lowly elevated. If God chose that particular act of supreme humility, then how could any man rightly be the means to another man’s end? Therefore, one element is the recognition that individuals are important; that personal ties to individuals are important. This element of solidarity is traditionally attached to the shepherds , fulfilling the obligation put to them by the news from the heavenly hosts to adore the newborn King.

The Magi, the traditional scapegoats for popular gift-giving carry the sense of search and discovery, the desire for the unexpected, with hope for wisdom. The discovery that the lights of their own intellects faded in comparison to the light from the cave mirrors our own unrest in the pauses of our hectic schedules. Similarly, the anxiety for righteousness can also blind our search as we jump to judge this season for others. It is ultimately in these elements' emptiness that we can limit the insanity of pride’s dominion over our souls. Through these difficulties we will see so long as we affirm our belief in the mysteries of Christ in the difficulties of life, including the skepticism, the rationalism, and the secularism bombarding the story of the Incarnation.

As we stumble in the dark, may we remember where to turn in hope for the light in our search for the Big Idea. Merry Christmas.

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