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Christmas means saying “Yes” to something beyond sentiment


Tamara Polajnar CC BY-NC 2.0

Brother Silas Henderson, SDS - published on 12/24/16

How do we make our "yes" resound beyond the season? That's the challenge!

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God…
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
—Luke 1:1-2, 14
The Gospel of the Christmas Mass “During the Day”

Every Christmas we celebrate the truth that God became a human being. This belief is so essential that to deny it or to try to explain it away is to give up the foundational belief of Christians. The Solemnity of Christmas invites us to pause and reflect on what these words really mean.

It is one thing to simply repeat the words of the Nicene Creed: “…and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” It is quite another to allow these words to effect a change in our lives. As Cardinal Basil Hume observed, “The words are simple and direct, but their meaning is far beyond our power to comprehend… But it is not flesh and blood that leads us to the truth. It is our Father in heaven,” Hume continued, “who gives us the light to say ‘I do believe’ and with conviction. His touch is gentle. There is no force as he moves us to share his secret thoughts. He, Emmanuel, is God among us, a man to lead us where we truly belong, wrapped in his love for us” (The Mystery of the Incarnation, 142).

To say that Jesus is Emmanuel—“God-with-us” —is a profound and dynamic statement of faith. But it is only faith which allows us, like the shepherds and sages of so many centuries ago, to make our way through the darkness to make our way to the manger, even as war, disease, poverty, and the senseless loss of innocent life can make us ask, “Where is God?” Sometimes it can even seem like the darkness might swallow us up.

But what we, as people of faith, celebrate at Christmas is the reality that God is here, present among us, working within us, now.

Ultimately, as Henri Nouwen wrote, Christmas means saying “Yes” to something beyond emotions and feelings. It is saying “Yes” to hope and the knowledge that salvation is God’s work, not ours: “The world is not whole… But it is into this broken world that a child is born, who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior. I look at him and pray, ‘Thank you, Lord, that you came… Your heart is greater than mine’” (The Road to Daybreak).

So, the question we must ask ourselves this Christmas is how we will allow that “Yes” to shape our lives so that the Gift of Christmas isn’t forgotten or lost after a day or even a season.

Ultimately, Christmas contains a promise that what began in that stable in Bethlehem—with that birth which changed human history—is still at work in individual hearts and in the world today: God’s redeeming love and peace.

My prayer is that you will know that love and peace not only in these holy days, but throughout the coming year of grace.

Merry Christmas.

How can you say ‘Yes’ to the presence of God-With-Us in a new way this Christmas?  

How does the celebration of Christ’s birth renew your sense of faith in God’s transforming love?

What gift can you offer the Christ Child this Christmas season?

Words of Wisdom: “It isn’t just the birth of the Child Jesus the season celebrates; it is the awareness of the ongoing work of God within Him, the foundation of our own hope for liberation that marks our lives and lifts our hearts. We are not left wondering, with John the Baptist, whether this is the ‘one who is to come’ (Luke 7:20). We can watch His growth into God, more and more, every step along the way.”—Joan Chittister, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year

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