Christmas is an exciting, joyful, and stressful time. In the midst of our shopping, card writing, cooking, and all that, we need to remember that Christmas is about Jesus Christ. But who is Christ, what motivates the frantic activity before His birthday each year? A central part of that motivation is family. We send cards to, and buy presents for, lots of people, but family is a focus. Everyone has a father and mother. Sadly, for some of us, our parents are not around, either deceased or far away. They did, however, bring us into the world.
Our Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 1:18 – 24) is about the mother and father of Jesus, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” (Matthew 1:18). We know that the real miracle was at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26 – 38) when Christ was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we focus on birthdays. The point that is being made here is that Jesus Christ has God as His actual Father (“God sent his Son, born of a woman” Galatians 4:4), but is born of a woman, Mary, the way any of us were born. This reality, though often dismissed as legend, defines who Christ is and His mission. The simple formula of the Church has always been, “Jesus Christ is true God and true man.” (CCC 467, Council of Chalcedon see Enchiridion Symbolorum [it’s in English] 301). We acknowledge this every Sunday in the Creed, “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father,…and by the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.) Although the concept of someone being simultaneously a human being and God is hard to grasp, we need to think about the reason, “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God.” (CCC 475).
Everything is about relationship. The inner life of God is relationship (CCC 255). We are created in the image of God, therefore relationship (really love) is central to our lives (CCC 357). Authentic relationship requires the participation of both parties. Sin damages or breaks the relationship (CCC 1850). Reconciliation with God was beyond the capacity of fallen humanity (CCC 616). Think about all the activity we dive into for Christmas; shopping for gifts, writing Christmas cards, traveling to see family. Isn’t all of this about showing care for someone, expressing relationship as love. Christ came into the world, that is what Christmas is all about, to explain to us, and show us, what authentic love is.
We are called by God to look to the Master to see how to live love authentically. Christ is God come into the world and He is still here. He promised to be with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). We encounter Him in the Eucharist at Mass. He is there when we pray together, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20). The very heart of our Christmas celebration should be sharing Christ with the people we care about. That involves going to Mass as a family, praying as a family. We focus on family at Christmas and family is about relationship. Family also, sometimes, needs to be about reconciliation. Christ has given us the wonderful sacrament of Confession, we need to make that encounter with God a part of our lives. Christ came into the world so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled with God and live love authentically. The meaning of Christmas is relationship with God lived as authentic love for the people around us.
Advent Prayer Over the Gifts, “We have no merits to plead our cause.”