First, Christmas is a feast of light: Today’s readings center around the theme of light, and the Baby in the manger is the Light of the world. In the Gospel Reading of today, we are told that light from Heaven surrounded the shepherds as the Angels sang their praises of God. The Christmas reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah is: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights celebrated by the Jews, proclaims the cleansing and purification of the Temple and its altar by Judas Maccabees and demonstrates how Yahweh’s light continues to brighten the world. But the true re-purification of God’s Temple occurred, not by the hand of a Maccabee, but with the birth of Jesus Christ. That is why the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus in the schematic framework of Hanukkah. Christmas is the signal to the world that God’s promised Light has come to earth. The Light of Divinity from a Baby in the manger was powerful enough to dissipate the darkness of sin, as Jesus proclaimed later, saying, “I am the Light of the world; anyone who follows Me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life’.” (Jn 8:12). Jesus demands that, as light of the world, his disciples should let their lights shine before men in such a way that people will see our good works and glorify God. Light helps us to walk and work in darkness and gives us warmth and warning against dangers. As we celebrate the feast of Heavenly Light during Christmas, let us be filled with the Light borrowed from Christ Child and radiate that light around us in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.
Second, Christmas is a feast of love: John in his Gospel says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but will have eternal life.” Christmas is God’s self-gift given to us in the Person of Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, and it really tells us how magnanimously God loves us and cares for us. Each Christmas reminds us that we are expected to return God’s love by sharing our gifts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service with others, or generously sharing all our blessings with others. The Magi came from the east to worship the Lord and they brought him gifts. We too, in response to God’s great love, need to give ourselves to Him as gifts. Christmas thus is a feast of gifts, and exchange of gifts with our loved ones has become a common practice during this time.
Third, Christmas is an event of joy; it is a feast of joy: The angels told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come: Luke 2:10-11: “Don’t be afraid. I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people. This very day in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you – Christ the Lord.” Joy pervades the whole atmosphere, the Heavenly joy of the angels expressed by their message and songs, and the earthly joy of the shepherds as they hastened to Bethlehem to find the new-born Child. No wonder, joy is a theme which goes right through the infancy narrative in Luke’s Gospel! Let us rejoice because we have a Savior God born to liberate us from the bonds of sin. We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin. We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires and habits. We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.
Fourth, Christmas is an event of peace; it is a feast of peace: That peace is the Shalom of God – life experienced in all its fullness, richness, and completeness in accord with the will of God. The angelic song conveys the message that true peace on earth is available only to those with the good will to receive it by doing the will of God, thus giving Him glory. Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others. This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son. Hence, we must share our health, wealth, talents and blessings with others. Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we, too, are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the “good will” of which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.
Fifth, Christmas is an event of hope; it is a feast of hope: Christmas is not just one day, but a season which lasts for twelve days, concluding on Epiphany. The extension of the feast should remind us to continue to share our joyful hope at the comings of the Messiah – the first some 2000 years ago, the last at the ‘Parousia’ or ‘Second coming,’ and all those occurring between the two, as we live our daily lives. This is what Paul expresses in his letter to Titus, in the Second Reading of today – “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and … as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to deliver us … eager to do what is good.”
Last, the real meaning of Christmas is ‘Emmanuel,’ God-with-us – God coming down to us; God coming alongside us; God seeking us out; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, guidance. Each one of us has, deep down in our soul, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. As we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word of God this Christmas, we must make a conscious effort, both to remember that Jesus is always with us, especially in the Eucharist, and to share our joy in His presence with others. So, let’s go straight to the heart of Christmas and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today.Let us conclude our Christmas reflections asking ourselves whether we would let Jesus in, because he is standing outside the door of our hearts, knocking to see if we will gladly open the doors of our hearts, welcome him in and allow him to be reborn in our hearts and lives. Let us realize the truth that Christmas isn’t only an event of the past, but more importantly, it is also an event of today and each day, Hence, let us joyfully acclaim – “TODAY IS BORN OUR SAVIOR – CHRIST THE LORD” (L-18)
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.