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December 25, 2020
THE GIFT OF GOD
REFLECTION FOR CHRISTMAS DAY
From the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The readings for the Liturgies of Christmas Day are varied and diverse celebrating the splendor and significance of the Feast. The Gospel of Luke, however, dominates the imagery in both culture and Liturgy. There is nothing like the birth of a child to stir the imagination bringing hope to a desperate people. Carl Sandberg once said, “A baby is God’s opinion the World should be blessed!” The birth of a child, any child, blesses all of us with the promise of a new day inviting us to be better people.
In the midst of the night, Jesus is born as a child of hope, placed in a manger as a feast of love, and proclaimed to the shepherds as a sign of liberation.
People of hope embrace difficult times as an opportunity to bring comfort and relief to those who suffer. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, places him in a manger as bread would be placed on a table. She invites everyone to the table of his self-giving. Remember the challenging words of her transformative song: “The greedy will be sent away empty and the hungry filled with good things (see Luke 1: 53).
The manger is a feeding place for animals. Luke evokes Isaiah 1: 2-3 as the faithful poor know where to find their Lord – not in palaces sitting on thrones but in poverty waiting to serve. Jesus is born in the manner of his life – willing to offer himself as bread for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and shelter for the unsheltered. He is born into the World as it is, suffering the circumstances of imperial oppression. Jesus experiences that oppression in his new-born flesh.
The mystery of this Holy Night testifies to God’s desire to be heard in the songs, hopes, and words of the marginalized and neglected. Heaven’s Angels sing “Glory” to the shepherds in the fields announcing the Child who will rival the Emperor and challenge traditional, hard-lined authorities. The mighty tremble and threaten. The greedy and powerful always tremble in the face of the Good News of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Like the birth of all children, the birth of Jesus signifies the rebirth of peace, justice, and reconciliation.
Finally, Christmas joins those great feasts of the year from the many Traditions of humankind seeking the liberation of all people from the throes of oppression. In every Tradition there is a feast of light shining in the darkness of our lives. The greater story of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus from a global perspective. Magi come from afar, signifying the wisdom of the World’s people. A wicked tyrant seeks to slay him, symbolizing the persistence of hostile forces even in the midst of hope. Elderly prophets will see into the future of his life, proclaiming the great courage we all need in the pursuit of justice.
The Feast of Christmas invites us to experience ourselves as the very children of God who are no less than siblings of one another. This is the great gift Christmas gives to all people – the realization of how important we are to one another. Together let us celebrate this Feast with those who are near us, giving thanks for the gift of everyone we meet. Let us so love one another that even tyrants are blessed by a World born anew in the Birth of a Child.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, on this Christmas Day. Thank you for being the gift of God to everyone you meet.