CHRISTMAS IS “GOOD NEWS” FOR ALL PEOPLE
The speakers in the mall are playing sleigh-bell songs, Santa is in his grotto with a long line of children waiting to stroke his whiskers and the media is full of adverts for the latest ’must-have’ toys. Grocery trolleys are piled high with calories, and the glossy magazines are enticing you to throw away last year’s decorations and go with a whole new theme. And maybe, if you hunt for it, you will find a tiny manger filled with hay huddled in a dark corner, covered with dust. It may even be empty. 2000 years later there is still no room for Jesus among the crowds of people who have forgotten why they celebrate CHRISTMAS.
Just a hurried line… to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all his ghastly “Xmas” racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on the bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, “Oh Lord!” they bring religion into everything Look – they are dragging it even into Christmas now!”
Christmas is a party. Specifically, it’s a birthday party — for Jesus — and birthdays are meant to be celebrated. It’s why we say “Merry Christmas!”
Ironically, at most Christmas parties the person whose birthday we’re supposed to be celebrating is completely ignored. He’s never even mentioned. Although Jesus is the reason for the season, he’s often overlooked or merely mentioned along with Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, the Grinch, elves, and a long list of celebrated fictional characters.
The purpose of Christmas is celebration! We learn this from the angel’s opening statement to the shepherds of Bethlehem. God had wonderful news for us that would cause us all to rejoice, celebrate, and throw a party: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10.
The good news of Christmas is worth celebrating for three reasons.
It is personal: “I bring YOU.”
It is positive: “GOOD news of great joy.”
And it is universal: “for ALL the people.”
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or where you’re headed — this news is for you.
The angel brought us news we can use. It’s the best news in the world:
God loves you!
God is with you!
God is for you!
Christmas is a time to celebrate that God loves you!
In the First Reading, the people are waiting – waiting for the messenger who announces the return of the Lord, for when the Lord retruns to zion then the people too will follow from their exile in Babylon.
Hebrews 1: 1-16, the Second Reading of today, says that God spoke in two phases: One before the coming of the Son of the God into the world, and one through the Son’s coming into the world.
In the Gospel, John in his prologue presents Jesus as the Logos that became flesh and dwelt amongst us, believing in him we find life Eternal. Jesus became one of us, so that we can become more like him. Jesus came into this world to bring light into our spiritual darkness! Just as he stood in the darkness of creation and said, “Let there be light”; there was a day when he stood in the cold darkness of my heart and brought light to my soul. Listen to how Paul said it in 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
What is sad is that the world stumbles blindly in the dark seeking light in all the wrong places.
I heard about a drunk that was down on all fours late one night under a street light. He was groping around the ground, feeling the cement, trying to find something. A friend walked up to him and said, “Sam, what are doing you there?” He said, “Well, I’ve lost my wallet.” So this friend gets down on his hands and knees and they both start looking for this man’s wallet. Neither one can find it, and finally the friend says to his drunk buddy: “Are you sure you lost the wallet here?” “Well no. In fact, I dropped it a half a block back over there.” “Well then why are we looking here?” “Because there’s no street light over there.”
That is just what the lost world does with the light. They reject it when it comes their way, John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” The word “comprehended” in verse 5 means “to lay hold on; to claim for oneself.”
And, they do worse than that! The lost world is actively trying to quench the light to prevent it from shining anywhere. But, I have news for them! The Light that has shone brightly from eternity past; the Light that gleamed in Bethlehem’s manger; the Light that shone for 33 years while Jesus walked this earth; the Light that flickered briefly at Calvary, but blazed forth at the entrance to an empty tomb will continue to light the pathway toward eternity for all those who desire to follow him!
Christ missing at Christmas:
Fr. Prakash could hardly believe his eyes. Christmas evening, he stared at the crib in the Church vestibule and was shocked to see the baby Jesus missing. Worried, Fr. Prakash commissioned the sacristan out to retrieve it. Scouting around the parish, the sacristan saw little Christopher, riding his new tricycle with the statue of the child Jesus precariously placed besides him. “Chris, you scoundrel,” cried the sacristan, “Why did you steal that statue?” Unfazed the boy replied, “I promised baby Jesus that if I got a tricycle for Christmas, I’d give him the first ride!” Two points are worth reflecting on: Christ seems missing from our Christmases, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that Jesus is taken forth to transform today’s world. (Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for daily Deeds’)
The Meaning of Christmas:
The doctor walked out of the delivery room and approached an anxious father in a New York hospital. He told him, “I am sorry to inform you but your baby lived only two hours after its birth, though we did everything we could to save its life.
As the sympathetic doctor was about to leave, the quick-thinking father said, “I read only recently that human eyes are needed in corneal operations. Could my baby’s eyes be used to enable someone to see again?”
The next day the Red Cross carried an eye to two different hospitals. In one, a corneal graft restored the sight of a working man with a large family. In the other, sight was given to a mother.
Some two thousand years ago a baby came into our sin – blinded world to give spiritual sight to all who will recieve it without money and without price. “The people who walked in darkness, saw a great light.” (Is 9:1)
A Dying Wish:
11-year-old Brenden Foster of Bothell, Washington, had leukemia, and just a few weeks more to live. On the way home from a clinic appointment, he saw a group of homeless people, figured they must be hungry, and decided he wanted to help. He didn’t have the strength to go feed them himself, but to help them became his dying wish. His love inspired others. Soon volunteers had handed out 200 homemade sandwiches to the homeless in Seattle on his behalf.
“He’s caused an avalanche of love and support,” said Shelley Rotondo, executive director of Northwest Harvest, a food bank that received donations on Brenden’s behalf and passed them on needy children, seniors, and others. Just days later, people all over the country and beyond had heard about Brenden’s wish, and many rallied to carry it out wherever they were. In his name they organized food drives, gathered truckloads of food, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for food for the hungry from Florida to Ohio to California.
Shortly before he died in his mother’s arms on Friday, November 22, 2008, Brendan expressed his amazement that one young boy could make such a difference.
Wise beyond his years, Brenden answered a reporter’s questions:
What made him sad? “When someone gives up.”
His message to other children? “Live life to the fullest.”
“Follow your dream. Don’t let anything stop you,” Brenden implored. He wants to continue helping people even after he leaves this world. He said he hopes to become an angel and accomplish more from Heaven than he did on earth. “He left a legacy,” Wendy mused, “just by making a wish and speaking his mind.”
Jesus “had compassion on” those around him. I love that the God of the universe felt compassion, and that this compassion led to action. Immediately following these words, we see Jesus feeding the hungry, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and teaching the shepherdless.
The Advent story has many facets. If we want to make Christmas spiritually significant for our families and children, we need to understand the spiritual significance it has for us. Discover the aspects of Christmas you are most passionate about, and then find ways to share your passion with your children.
The story of Jesus’ birth has been carefully constructed with us and our children in mind. The Bible could simply say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but the story takes on added dimensions when there are political upheavals; a young, homeless, pregnant mother gives birth in a stable; angels sing to shepherds and stars guide wise men across distant deserts. This has been choreographed by God himself. The action unfolds with Bethlehem center stage in the Universe, and a story is created to be retold and re-enacted. It is carefully balanced. Poor shepherds visit the baby as well as rich men. There are plots and subplots and an evil villain of a king. Danger lurks around dark corners, but the Light of the World cannot be extinguished, tiny and vulnerable though he is.
The story has been told to inspire a sense of wonder and mystery. It captures our imagination and it is especially appealing to children. Take some time out to immerse yourselves in the story. Read it from the different gospels. Ask each other, ‘which part of the story do you like the best? Which part is the most important to you? Where do you see yourself in the story?’ And then ask yourself which aspect you most want to celebrate with your children and family this year? And why this aspect now? Maybe your family needs to experience peace after a time of confusion and pain, or a sense of God being with you (Emmanuel) during a time of uncertainty.
The best antidote to all the commercialism is to keep the real story alive in your own mind. Keep telling it to your children in different ways. Bring it to life. Talk about what you are going to give other people, rather than what you want to get. Keep plans and decorations simple, and focus on the needs of your children and the people around you who are struggling. Find ways to share what you have and involve your children in the projects. Help them to see, feel, smell, hear and taste what the real story is all about. Maybe you can camp in a stable for one night, play choral music that sounds like angels, and share a sense of wonder about God’s amazing love that would give his only son to be born as a fragile human being, just for you and me.
In the margins there are some ideas to help you bring Christmas alive and make it more meaningful for you and your children. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your season; to help you put Jesus at the very center of everything you do; and to give you God’s perspective on all your plans. Then your children will have a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of this amazing event, and you will help them to live in a deeper understanding of God’s love.
Christ was born to help us change from the OLD to the NEW:
From Greed to Generosity
From Selfishness to Love for others,
From Thoughtlessness to Thoughtfulness
From Despair to Hope,
Fom Inner confusion to Peace
From Despondency to Joy,
From Fear to Trust in God,
From Ingratitude to Gratitude
From being Earthbound to being Full of Desire for Heaven.
A Christmas List-to-do:
To your spouse – Love in Your Heart
To your child – Good Example
To your parents – Honour
To your friend – Friendship
To your Neighbour – Charity
To your enemy – Forgiveness
To your opponent – Tolerance
To your customers – Service
To yourself – Respect
To God – Everything
This Christmas give 8 Gifts to Others
The Gift of Listening:
But you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming,
no planning your response. Just listening.
The Gift of Affection:
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds.
Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.
The Gift of Laughter:
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories.
Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you”.
The Gift of a Written Note:
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full sonnet. A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.
The Gift of a Compliment:
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red”, “You did a super job” or
“That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day.
The Gift of a Favor:
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind.
The Gift of Solitude:
There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone.
Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.
The Gift of a Cheerful Disposition:
The easiest way to feel good is to make others feel good.
Wishing one and all a Happy Christmas and
May Christ be born in your hearts!
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.