Merry Christmas to you and yours and all those with whom you will celebrate this wondrous feast today! For most people, Christmas holds a special place in your heart, from the memories of Christmas past or the new experiences of Christmas this year with a new child or grandchild to experience the wonder of this day. Christmas almost needs the wonder of a child to help us appreciate the beautiful lights, the decorations, the anticipation and wonder of seeing Christmas presents under the tree on Christmas Eve or Christmas morn. Imagine a three year old child full of wonder who exclaims “Wow” when he or she sees the decorations in Saint Joseph Cathedral or any large parish church. “Wow” when seeing the gifts and manger scene under the tree sums up the response of mind and heart when we see all the effort that goes into this feast in church and in your homes.
So, whether we ponder the symbolism of three sets of fourteen generations in the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel ending in the phrase, “Behold the virgin shall conceive a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God-is-with-us.” We can reflect on how God is with us, how God will be with us and how we can be in union with God. Or we can ponder the Lukan narrative that shepherds listen to the angels, travel to Bethlehem and see the child lying in a manger with Mary and Joseph. Those fearless protectors of flocks, keeping night watch experience the presence of Emmanuel in the most unlikely place, a stable cave, where a child lies in a manger, a feeding trough, marveling at what was told them.
Over the years we have easily romanticized the infancy narratives, feeling the innocence, the wonder of a new born babe who in fact will be the Savior, Messiah and Redeemer of all God’s people, who will, in fact, travel to Jerusalem and fulfill what Isaiah foretold years before – a suffering servant who came to save us. Two thousand years later, we still marvel at the telling of the story. We marvel that God broke into our broken world and brings us the possibility of truth and grace; brings us the grace we need to live our lives.
As we celebrate this Christmas and open presents, we need to give each other the gift of ‘presence’ to each other, the gift of ourselves to those in need, using the gifts God gives to us to make a difference in our world. There can be no better Christmas than that – Merry Christmas. May Christ be born anew in your hearts, this day, and in this coming year!
Christmas Blessings, Father Larry Hendel