The birth of Christ was a turning point in the history of the world. Once again we, as Christians, take this Christmastime to proclaim the mysterious event of the Incarnation. God's explosion into human history had very humble beginnings. A young mother and a confused, but faith-filled husband brought their hopes, joys, fears and trust to a stable in Bethlehem and gave to the world the first-born Son of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes and warmed by the breath of sheep and oxen.
Yet almost immediately we are presented with different scenes from the life of this little family, from two different Gospels (Luke and Matthew) all of which seem to be disconnected and disjointed.
We leave the traditional serenity of the manger scene of a newborn babe and move immediately to the frantic story from Jesus' early adolescence on the Feast of the Holy Family. Then, we celebrate the beginning of a new year with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God as the scene shifts back again to the announcement of Christ's birth to a group of shepherds keeping watch by night. This is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany, observing the magi as they come to adore the Christ child. And in a few weeks, we will see the adult Jesus baptized and prolaimed as "beloved Son."
These Gospel stories indeed seem to jump back and forth. But rather than focusing on each individual scene of the Christmas season, we might be better off concentrating instead on the underlying theme throughout - the Light of Christ which has burst through the darkness and which we continue to proclaim week after week in our Creed - "Light from Light, True God from True God. Woven within each of these Christmas stories, there is the narrative of God's unfolding plan for our salvation through the person of Jesus.
The image accompanying my reflection this week is titled "Adoration of the Magi" and it captures the essence of the season. The original is one of eighteen murals which can be found in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo. The mural depicts the holy family immersed in Light, welcoming the Magi, who represent all of mankind, to whom this light is given. The Son of God did not only come for the people of Israel represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, but also for the whole of humanity, represented by the Magi.
Christ's arrival made a stir in the world and not just in the place where he was born. Foreigners as well as locals were led to his dwelling to do him homage. Even now, national boundaries and differences dissolve when we respond to God's invitation to come to Christ. Jesus is a king like no other, proclaiming a new kind of kingdom - a realm which will undermine the powers and potentates of the world.
So, we reflect today on the wonderful things God has done for us in Christ Jesus. He can be found in humble circumstances, in surprising places and, by the world's standards, among the least important. Christmas celebrates the Light of Christ. God's hospitality reaches beyond all borders and touches all people. For God there are neither outsiders nor aliens.
We are all surrounded by this brilliant Light. A blessing has been said over us and a new name given us. This year's Christmas will enable us to discover God-With-Us anew and, with him, the key to our existence, the taste of the essential, the fountain of peace, the joy of dialog and the wonder of true freedom.
And from our hearts, hope will overflow.