The two-month-long mental torture is almost over; very soon there will be no more Christmas ‘evergreens’ played endlessly on loops in shops, no more ‘Jingle Bells’ every 10 minutes on the radio, no more sparkly glittery dust on the telly. I’ve loved all that, but I’m happy that it’s coming to its conclusion this year. I’m happy that now we can do what Christmas is really about: meeting up together, sharing lovely food, opening presents, and enjoying the time spent with our relatives and friends. We’ll have a row about insignificant happenings from the distant past or over current affairs; we’ll let some old, deeply-buried resentments surface in a covert or open way. We’ll wish to see our guests or ourselves heading back home as soon as possible. We’ll be happy that our family gathers together once a year, not twice or more.
All this fuss because of the birthday of a little boy back in the distant past, and in a dusty, remote corner of the world, in a village without any significance or aspirations. Even the date of his birthday actually remains unknown; 25 December is as likely as any other day of the year; it could even have been 29 February that happens only once every four years. On the surface the actual birth wasn’t unique in any particular way; all the miraculous and extraordinary bits and pieces we find in the gospel were added much later. That birth had such little significance at the time that, for many years, even the followers of Christ didn’t bother much about it. That little boy seemed at the time to be just another baby born into this world. But without that stage of his life, anything that mattered – including Jesus’ sacrificial death and glorious resurrection – wouldn’t have happened. God chose to follow the same route that each and every one of us has to; the route with all its possibilities, chances and potential; the route with all the obstacles, adversities and pain.
Our predecessors deemed the winter solstice to be the best time to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. This is the moment of the year when the darkness of night starts to lose its grip on the light of day, when each day is getting imperceptibly longer than the previous one. Christmas is the new beginning when hope is reborn, with its new potential and new opportunities ahead. This hope becomes visible at the end of a week of celebration, when many of us commit ourselves to some sort of New Year’s resolution. But this hope needs to reach much deeper into us than simply into our material or physical over-indulgence; it has to create space in each one of us for the Incarnate God. His unconditional love wants to become flesh in us, to change us and to lead us up to the heights of the Spirit. From that height, with a spiritual birds-eye view, we can assess our situation better, and choose better the way to follow.
Today I wish you the courage to open your heart to God who comes as a little, seemingly helpless child, who in fact wields the gentle power to transform your life; not because your life is bad, but because it might be made fuller and more beautiful. Happy Christmas!