The Christmas story, as presented in the Scriptures, holds treasured memories reaching back to our earliest childhood. The Jubilee Year of Mercy enriches these memories with an added poignancy.
We shall begin Christmas midnight Mass with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.”
As the year of 2015 draws to its close, a year that has witnessed indescribable suffering for the people of Syria, let us bring our broken world to the promise of Christ’s dawning mercy. Christ was born into this world as the light that the darkness could not overcome, a light that enlightens troubled hearts, a light that the darkness could not overcome.
Beyond the understandable sentimentality that the Christmas story evokes, let us not lose sight of the truths that it proclaims for a broken world. Christ was not born into the mansions of the powerful and rich. His parents, Mary and Joseph, lived the simple life of labourers. Mary gave birth to her child in the poverty of a stable. Mary and Joseph were strangers in Bethlehem, far removed from their home to the north. Almost certainly the local populace would have treated them with the distance reserved for outsiders.
As this Year of Mercy unfolds, let us pray for displaced people throughout the world. More than this, let us reach out to them through the corporal works of mercy recommended to us by Pope Francis. Thus shall we be numbered among those hymned by the angelic host at Christ’s birth. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour.”
The Christmas story is the overture to the Gospel, prefiguring the major themes to be developed in the ministry of Jesus. All its figures, Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, demonstrate the faith that entrusted itself to Christ at his coming. Jesus would bless them as the poor in spirit, to whom is entrusted the kingdom of God.
Our Christmas can never be based on past memories alone. It must be for us, in our own day, a present work of the Holy Spirit. St Luke tells the story of Simeon, an upright and devout man, upon whom the Holy Spirit rested. Only through that Spirit was he enabled to recognise his Saviour in the child presented to him in the temple by Mary and Joseph. “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see.”
May that same Spirit open our eyes to the Christ who comes to fill our days. Above all, may we, with Mary, treasure these things in our hearts, pondering their meaning for our own lives. A blessed Christmas to you all.
This article first appeared in the Christmas double issue of The Catholic Herald. To download the entire issue for free with our new app, go here