By Sr. (Dr.) D.J. Margaret, FMA –
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given” – Isaiah 9: 6
The whole world is excited with the arrival of the season of Christmas. It is a unique and a special season, a season of great tidings of joy, of peace, of love… and of salvation. Jesus is the raison d’être for the season of Christmas. It is a season when we celebrate the birth of Christ the King, the redeemer of humankind. Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making.
It is a time to contemplate the entry of the mystery of God’s unquantifiable love for humanity: “For God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3: 16).” It is the celebration of God’s connectivity with humanity and our connectivity with God and with one another. Christmas is the celebration of the feast of God’s love entering the world in a unique way.
The following are some of the most significant events in the process of God’s love entering into the world in a unique way: The faith and devotion of a vulnerable woman called Mary, a virgin who became the Mother of God (Lk1:35-37); the integrity and loyalty of a man, a carpenter called Joseph who became the foster Father of God’s Son; the miracle of the Incarnation of the Son of God – Jesus; an ordinary family of Nazareth became the Holy Family; an usual star shining in the dark night’s sky became the unusual Bright Star of Bethlehem; the royal kings and wise men from far and afar arrive to adore the King of kings; the unassuming shepherds became the first honourable guests of honour; the cattle shed became the royal palace for the Redeemer of the world to be born and the cattle became special invitees of the great grand feast. To announce to the world the arrival of the messiah, there resounds ceaselessly the song of the choirs of angels proclaiming: “Glory to God in heaven and peace to the people of good will”.
Christmas is the celebration of the humble commencement of the redemptive journey of God. In this commencement, the Creator of the universe lies as a vulnerable infant, an omniscient being deigns to be a dependent babe, an omnipotent God becomes a powerless child. This is the story of God becoming a man… This is the most amazing act of God’s love for us (Jn 3:16). Accepting this act of God for us is not a myth but a real redemptive event.
We are called to contemplate the mystery of the connection between the Christmas cradle and the redemptive sign of the wood of the Cross. We are invited to hold the key to the mystery of our faith as Edith Stein wrote: “For the Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole. If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others. Thus, the way from Bethlehem leads inevitably to Golgotha, from the crib to the cross.” Christmas is a journey, a pilgrimage, a path leading us from crib to cross, from cross to grave, from grave to heaven.
Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God loves us uniquely in our littleness and gives us great values to human life and love. Rightly Pope Benedict expressed on 24 April 2005 in his inauguration homily: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” The uniqueness of Christmas is that everyone’s life has great value in and of itself, totally apart from what the world thinks of him/her.
Jesus set aside the glory of heaven and took on human weakness (Phil 2:6-11): He chose to be born in a stable to a poor family in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. He made shepherds who were at the bottom of his day’s socioeconomic hierarchical structure, the first witnesses of His coming (Lk 2:8-20). The unique message of Christmas is that we are of great value in God’s eyes. We do not have to earn His love, only return it. When we ponder on God’s love for us, we too are encouraged to share love with others, to embrace peace and become neighbour to one another.
Christmas is a time to contemplate; Christmas is a time of giving and forgiving, caring and sharing, rejoicing and rejoining. It is a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow beings should overcome all hatred and hostility. It is a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God. It is good to recall what C. S. Lewis says with regard to the Miracle of Christmas. He states, “The central miracle asserted by the Christian is the Incarnation. They say that God became man. If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the earth, the very thing the whole story has been about.” That “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14) is not only the most important thing about Christmas; it’s the most important thing about the entire history of the cosmos.
Sr. (Dr.) D.J. Margaret has an Under-Graduate and a Post-Graduate Degree in Mathematics. She holds a Diploma in Salesian Spirituality, Rome; a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Theology, VidyaJyoti College, Delhi. She has obtained a Ph. D Degree in Christian Studies from the University of Madras, Chennai, entitled, “An Inquiry into the Role of Spiritual Beliefs and Practices in Post-diagnosis Care of Women Living with HIV/AIDS”. In addition to research articles in the field of women studies, she has authored two books: “Women in Mission” and “Finding God in Illness and Care-giving”. Her intellectual pursuits are complemented by her commitment to education, formation and animation of young girls, women, and teachers.