What Child Is This?

By Miriam Hogan, O.C.D.

This familiar Christmas song always helps me to focus on the “mystery” of a new baby in our lives. At the same time, however, it also invites me to question my understanding of and devotion to the Incarnation.

A few years ago I was walking with a niece who was about to give birth to a child. We started talking and discussing the state of the world. It was not a very optimistic picture that was being presented. She expressed the feeling that with things being the way that they were, she didn’t think it all that wonderful to bring a baby into such a world. But then we both began to think about the child that she was carrying, and we wondered what difference the little one might make. We came to a mutual agreement that the best hope for the future was the “new life” that she and other young women were carrying. What difference these babies may make in the world!

God Entrusted This Child

Lest the reader think that this hope is a bit exaggerated, let us recall that Almighty God chose to entrust the Christ Child (the Savior of the world) to what some biblical scholars think might have been a teenage Mary and possibly a teenage Joseph. Jesus, like all babies, entered into the uncertainty of a strange and dangerous world. Just as heavenly angels were part of the story of his birth, so were the deadly plots to eliminate him along with the other newborn babies in Bethlehem. Just as Mary knew the joy of holding him close against her heart, she also knew the fear of fleeing with him into the night so that the solders would not take his life. St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) held that each generation has its own special gift to present to the world.1 Sometimes I wonder, “What is the gift of our younger people?” And are we ready to receive it? Can we allow the children to make a difference in an old but ever new world? Do we feel the Hope and Joy of new life that inspired St. John of the Cross2 to take up a statue of the Infant Jesus in his arms and dance at Christmas recreation? Today, while we hear debates about abortion and women’s rights, perhaps we also need to reconsider the question. What Child Is This?

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1 Sister Catherine Bertrand, S.S.N.D., in an article that she wrote for Sisters Today in January 2000, (this article can be found on the web by searching for: Sisters Today Magazine. Index. Saint Benedict’s Monastery) gives a description of the major characteristics of recent generations and how they in general ways approach spiritual life. Generation X, which describes those born between 1961-81, “identifies with the suffering Jesus, due to the family situations from which they come, the reality of AIDS, the constant threat of nuclear war, etc.” Perhaps, their special gift is to bring us to a greater awareness of the Incarnation of Christ in our world today. The “Jesus-themed T-shirts and WWJD (What would Jesus do?) bracelets” can remind us that in a rapidly changing world we can count (for sure, rock solid) only on God being present in our daily lives and choices. Also, when young adults were asked to articulate the essential elements of Catholicism, their top three answers were: “belief that God is present in the sacraments, charitable efforts toward helping the poor, and devotion to Mary.” The choice of these essentials also causes me to think about what is their special gift to those of us in the previous generation (the baby boomers) and to the young people in the next generation (generation Y born between 1980-94). Sr. Catherine sums it up at the end of the article stating, “Let us not fail to meet the challenge of helping young people discover God in the many ways God chooses to be revealed. And in the process, I have no doubt that the young will lead us to God as well.”

2Further, St. John in his Romances reveals a God that seeks to bring love and peace to all people. “The Father, with tender love, spoke in this way:….”

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