We Need A Little Christmas
by Miriam Hogan, O.C.D.
In the Broadway Show (Mame), there was a song, "We need a little Christmas." Today in the midst of so much uncertainty and anxiety, financial, political and for many people personal, this statement seems truer than ever before. We need a little Christmas.
Stepping back from our everyday worries and concerns the celebration of Christmas speaks to the heart. More than any other Feast it evokes the themes of love1 and new life. It is not only about the love of human beings for God but it is above all about God's Divine Love for us.
First, concerning our love for God, we have the example of Mary who "bore Him in her womb with love beyond all telling."2 Then there is the example of Joseph faithfully caring for those that God entrusted into his care. The angels and the star announced a new and glorious presence upon the earth; while shepherds and Magi offered their worship and their gifts. Finally, we who are born in a distant and different century are also able to bring our love and to rejoice in the fullness of the mystery of God becoming one of us so that we might be one with God.
Second, concerning God's love for us, we know by faith in the Incarnation that we are invited to acknowledge God's presence among us. For it is not some pie in the sky type of Divinity that we worship but a real human being that once came to earth and cried in the stillness of the night. Christmas night still invites us to listen to the angels and to rejoice with all our hearts in God's choosing to become one of us. Further, God does not ask any more from us than we are able to give. In fact, Christmas is mainly a matter of receiving God into our hearts with love. To borrow a saying from St. Therese, "Love, how well our hearts are made for that." Indeed, how well our hearts are made for God.
Further, the Christmas story helps us to center on eternal values. Some things can be easily agreed upon. Perhaps first of all it is easy to see what it is not about. In the telling of the story, civil rights or social justice, antipoverty, homeland security, country, social standing, educational opportunity, equality, women's rights, clergy and pedophilia, medical insurance, ecology, global warming, church affiliation and attendance etc. are usually not even mentioned or brought to our attention. What a relief!
Yet, we know that God enters into all of these topics but Christmas is more than any one of them or all of them together. It celebrates the simple love of mother and child and the universal love of God for all people. Looking at the sacred mystery in another way that may have special meaning for us today, we can focus upon the vulnerability of the Child. The Son of God is literally put into our hands. We believe historically, that, Mary received Him into her heart and hands and now at Eucharist we can also receive him into our hands and hearts. Perhaps the message that we need to appreciate is that it is ok to be vulnerable. If Gods own Son became human and thus vulnerable, we can also offer our lives as they are, no matter how hurting, sick, fragile or broken we may be or feel. Thus, it is in our power to put ourselves into God's hands.
Finally, returning to the theme that "we need a little Christmas," I am drawn also to remember the lines of another song. "What the world needs now is love sweet love, that's the only thing that there is just too little of."3 Taking our clue from the angels, let us rejoice and be glad, and once again celebrate God's love from which all other loves proceed! "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace".
1The key to understanding love is of extreme importance in our culture where the word is often misused to mean something other or even the opposite of the classical understanding or definition. In Philosophy we were taught that "love is to desire the total good of the other person." I came across an example of this kind of love in the letter that my father wrote to my mother before going into battle in WWII. He was a young man with a wife and baby and much to look forward to. Yet, he was well aware that what they were ordered to do would and in fact did, result in the death of many soldiers. So he wrote, if I am killed, I pray that you will not grieve too long for me and that you will remarry. I love you with all of my heart but you are a young woman and my greatest desire is for your happiness in life.
2Ref. Preface for Advent II
3a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David
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