How we shall live the coming Christmas Season


What distinguishes the Old Testament from the New is the gift that men of each have received from God. In the Old Testament, Israel receives the gift of the Law. In the New Testament, all mankind, not only Israel, receives the gift of the Son of God. Yes, what distinguishes Christians is the gift they have received: the Son of God! There is a phrase in the Gospel of St. John that says,

"God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son…" Jn 3:14.

Christianity is not a higher system of morals; nor something that will make us more effective in history. True, the new relationship that God established with men certainly illumined their lives and made them morally superior to men of the Old Testament… True, today there is a greater sense of unity among nations, a real commitment to work for peace and justice; and modern-day man, engaged in history as he is, seems to take these things to heart more than in the past. Christianity does not deny the importance of such contributions, nor could it ever. Christianity can be incidentally "effective" when it overflows beneficially into the sphere of history and improves man's moral condition, but this is not the heart of Christianity. The true heart of Christianity is the self-gift of God to man.

It is natural that Christian faith today is undergoing a crisis (one of the most serious crises in 2000 years), because today it seems that the living awareness of the Presence of God and of the gift that the Eternal Father gave us of His Only Begotten Son is weaker than in the past. It is not about the gift of something, but of Someone: all of Christianity is a relationship of love between God and man. It is a relationship in which God loves man and man loves God.

A Divine Relationship can exist only among the Three Divine Persons. How then could God establish a relationship with us? How could man establish a relationship with God? How is it possible to bridge the infinite qualitative gap between the creature and the Creator?

In the Pre-Christian era, there were authentic religions, but they were authentic only as far as they were a preparation for the coming of Christ. Only the Incarnation of the Word could make a relationship with God possible. With the Incarnation, God and man are no longer separated and distant. Rather, they live a union of love in Christ, one that cannot possibly be any more intimate or effective than it already is.

The Gospel is not a book of morals, nor is it a history book. The Gospel is about nothing else but the Son of God made flesh, Who encounters man and man who encounter the Son of God. Jesus is not interested in the history of Rome. In fact, He seems to ignore it; instead, He is interested in establishing a relationship with every individual person who meets Him and lives this relationship to the full. The essence of an authentic religious life lies in such an encounter. It is a living, marvelous encounter, even if it is lived in the humility and simplicity of a seemingly ordinary event.

It is about Jesus who meets Simon, son of Jonah, and calls Simon to follow Him. It is about a humble woman, a sinful woman, who throws herself at Jesus' feet, a woman whom Jesus does not reject but forgives and calls to live in communion with Him.

The feast of Christmas demands that we gain a more vivid reflective awareness of the miracle of Jesus' presence: such is the gift that the Father has given to us. It is by means of the Incarnation, the birth of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary, that God lives in the heart of the world: He lives and wants to live in the heart of each of us. Do we really live such a relationship with Jesus? Is it really the high point of our life, the deepest desire of our being, the purest joy, the sentiment of inner fullness that makes us live, beginning now, the life of the saints themselves? One day, during the Octave of Christmas, St. John of the Cross went to visit a Carmelite Convent of nuns, and in the parlor he saw a small statue of the Child Jesus on display. When he saw it, he went into ecstasy and, taking the statue in his arms, he began to dance with it and burst out into the following exclamation (and this exclamation is worth even more than any of his writings):

"Sweet and tender Jesus, if love has to kill me, now it has its chance."

Do we really believe in the living presence of God who became man for us so that He might live with us and we with Him? Is our Christian life merely a pursuit of moral virtue that we can contemplate as the natural perfection of man or is it a living drama of love for a God Who chose to live our very life, Who chose to live the very poverty and misery of our human condition? Does the presence of a God who strips Himself of His own glory to be our companion mean anything to us?

We are not living the Mystery of the Nativity of Our Lord if we are unable to see, beneath a humble sign, the infinite love of a God Who gives Himself to each person and wants to be the treasure, the joy, the eternal life of each of us.

Yes, the Christian Mystery is inconceivable. To believe in such a Love is the most difficult thing to do, indeed, without faith, it is impossible. We can easily believe and accept God's Providence, but Love is infinitely greater than providence of any kind. God does not give according to our need. He gives much more than this, because He gives Himself to us, and He is Infinite. Without a miracle, we would not be able to believe in such a gift. And yet it is precisely in this infinite disproportion between us and God that we may see the truth of a love that is not only freely-given, but also without measure.

It is almost natural for man to attempt to reduce the Christian Mystery to fit his petty desires and expectations. The Mystery of the Nativity of Our Lord forces us to go infinitely beyond all our desires and expectations. God Himself has come (into the world), and God Himself wants to be received by us. Heaven is no longer greater than man's heart since God Himself can dwell in man's heart. All world history is nothing, or less than nothing, compared to the gift that we must receive from God.

Blessed Margaret Ebner, on Christmas day, entered the monastery refectory singing, while her sisters waited to say grace. She carried the statue of the Child Jesus in her arms. It seemed as though the Infant Jesus became alive and smiled at her as she carried Him. This is what happens to us as well: the Eternal Father and Virgin Mary are giving Him to us. Are we really conscious that we are receiving today the Infant Jesus (and the Infant Jesus is God made man, Who gives us love) from God and from the Virgin Mary?

The Father
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