Seasonal Reflection Christmas, 2016
‘Tis the season to be jolly! Or so the song tells us. Certainly, it is a season for many celebratory rituals—decorating, writing cards (for those who still do that!), giving gifts, enjoying special treats to eat and drink, visiting with loved ones, and maybe other personal or family traditions.
But we also know this season can be rather difficult for some: people who are alone, people who are mourning, people who are homeless or hungry, unemployed, sick, or otherwise unable to participate in the festivities, people living with conflict in their own homes or their countries racked by war and other forms of violence. Unfortunately, those realities don’t disappear just because it’s Christmas.
Actually, Christmas might be more accurately described as a season of paradoxes. Even scripture tells us that. First, we have the joyous birth of a new-born baby, and not just any baby, but a Savior! There are angels singing in the sky and magi on the ground bringing precious gifts. But there is also a young couple far from home with no place to stay and no family support. All they can provide their beautiful son is a manger meant for animals. When they present him at the temple, they meet Simeon who predicts that "this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted". Simeon then forewarns, “You yourself a sword will pierce.” Shortly thereafter, these new parents have to flee to a foreign country to escape their little one’s slaughter, while other baby boys are killed in his stead. We learn quickly that Christmas and Good Friday are not far apart.
Years ago, in The Mood of Christmas, Howard Thurman wrote what are, hopefully, these familiar words:
The work of Christmas
The work of Christmas
Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.
Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wise men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.
Pax Christi Metro New York © 2016