This season is full of many traditions. If you watch any Christmas movie, especially the Hallmark movies, they are chalk full of Christmas traditions, and sweet memories. My family certainly has some. If you were to visit my parent’s house you would see my Christmas stocking that my mom made when I was a baby still hung in the same place that it, and each of my families’, has been for over 40 years, and you would find prominently displayed on the tree the torn and crumpled ornaments that my sister and I both claimed we made in grade school. Similarly, for you, each family here probably has your own little traditions, perhaps centered around the Christmas tree. You might bake and decorate Christmas cookies together and enjoy the same types of food every year. Even being here at this Christmas Mass might be a tradition for your family. All of these traditions bring with them many kind of different memories. And all these many Christmas traditions are good because they bring the family together and fill our hearts with warmth and joy. However, the Christmas traditions are only temporary, family will disperse again, at some point the Christmas tree will die, and all the lights and decorations will come down. The cookies will be eaten, and the Christmas festivities will come to an end. But my brothers and sisters, traditions are not solely what Christmas is about. Christmas is about God’s gift to us. God’s gift to us is His son, the true and central purpose of this holiday season. For over 2000 years; since the 3 wise men traveled, a group of shepherds cautiously approached, and the choirs of angels rejoiced, Jesus’s birth has been celebrated. However, the birth of Jesus Christ is not a tradition, it is so much more. The birth of Jesus is not just something that we remember or do every year, like a tradition. Even though the Christmas festivities end, the celebration of Jesus Christ does not come to an end, because He doesn’t have an end. The celebration of our Savior is eternal and we should be celebrating that gift. In fact, as our readings and Scripture confirm, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Even though creation has had a beginning, and will have an end, as Scripture says, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. It is Jesus who, ‘through whom all creation came into being’. Therefore, in Jesus, the Creator has entered into his creation. The eternal has entered into time and space, the divine has become human. What a gift!
However, have you ever reflected on why Jesus became human, as a baby? He could have announced his presence with grandeur coming in a flaming chariot, as the rich and royal King, as many Jews has expected. Yet, he didn’t, our King choose to enter as a tiny baby in a small rural town. The simplicity of this must be looked at. Jesus’s journey from human baby into boyhood and then into a man who worked all the miracles and revealed His Divinity, teaches us that our lives should be a journey of growth too. We are called to grow and mature in our faith and love for God’s presence living and active among us. How has your relationship with Jesus Christ grown and deepened over this past year? You might ask, growth into what, what does a mature faith look like? And here is where one last comparison and contrast of Christmas traditions comes into play. If we think about the family traditions that center around the Christmas tree, the ornaments and decorations. All the Christmas festivities do not give meaning, joy, and life to Christmas in and of themselves, we do. We give the traditions meaning, our heartfelt active participation in the festivities as a family, make the Christmas traditions important and special for us. But what gives our faith meaning and vitality? It is of course, Jesus Christ Himself. The reason for the season, the true and eternal gift from the love of God. Yes, our prayer and participation in faith should give our life meaning, because it really is the presence of the living God and Jesus Christ Himself who IS the meaning and purpose for our lives. And so, it is only when we let Jesus Christ be born and grow into the center of our hearts and lives, just as He is in the center of this manger scene, that we will live out the vitality to our faith and our lives are filled with meaning and joy.
Finally, let me make this truth personal for you and I with this true story. On Christmas Eve in 1937, St. Faustina saw a glorious vision of the baby Jesus. She writes about it in her Diary and describes what happened.
When I arrived at Midnight Mass, from the very beginning I steeped myself in deep recollection, during which time I saw the stable of Bethlehem filled with great radiance. The Blessed Virgin, all lost in the deepest of love, was wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes, but Saint Joseph was still asleep. Only after the Mother of God put Jesus in the manger, did the light of God awaken Joseph, who was also praying. But after a while, I was left alone with the Infant Jesus who stretched out His little hands to me, and I understood that I was to take Him in my arms. Jesus pressed His head against my heart and gave me to know, by His profound gaze, how good He found it to be next to my heart. At that moment Jesus disappeared and the bell was ringing for Holy Communion.
It was a brief encounter, but one that communicated to Faustina an immeasurable lesson. It reinforced in her heart the immense love of God and showed to her the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is principally about welcoming the baby Jesus into our arms and letting him rest upon our heart. It is not surprising that this vision occurred immediately before Holy Communion, when Jesus can do exactly that. It is through the reception of the Eucharist that we can let Jesus rest upon our hearts and pour out his love for us. As you approach the Eucharistic banquet this Christmas in a few minutes, remember this vision of St. Faustina and let it dominate your thoughts and prayers. By doing so, you can imagine the little baby Jesus opening his arms to you, waiting for you to pick him up. Then when you receive Holy Communion, you can let him rest on your heart and receive his loving gaze. If we do, then Christmas will never be the same, and certainly will not have an end, because that same love and joy of Jesus Christ becomes alive and grows evermore in our hearts and lives. May this be a Christmas fill and renew your lives with God’s ever-fulfilling love and presence.BACK TO LIST