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New Bethlehem Heart
“Pleased as man with us to dwell; Jesus, our Emmanuel!”
Christmas is about God and about humanity because in Jesus both God and humanity have “embraced”--forever! God has Loved us to the point of becoming one of us. His is a Love that is irresistibly empathetic--drawn to the heart of hurting, sinful humanity: “For today I MUST stay at your house” (Luke. 19:5B). He has freely chosen to fully participate in our human condition--embracing our human nature with an overwhelming Love in a heart passionately alive in the world
“The Season of Silent Love”
Today we live in a very 'noisy nation' and in the midst of much “digital distraction”. Consequently, at this time of year having an authentic experience of the “heart” of Christmas--its deeper, inner meaning--is becoming increasingly more counter cultural. For it means silencing the “cultural cacophony”, the “societal sirens, bells and whistles”, and journeying interiorly and courageously into our hearts. Christmas is addressed, first of all, to the human heart.
“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes” (Luke. 2:6)
“Every athlete exercises discipline in every way” (1 Cor. 9:25). In Luke 2:6 we read, “She gave birth to her first born son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes”. Likewise the angel foretells this to the shepherds with the words, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). St. Luke does not overlook this detail in both passages-- that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
“ A Christmas Witness”
Christmas is a most profound mystery of God's Love for us and our longing and desire for Him. On this Sunday's Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph the gospel from St. Luke (Luke 2:22-38) depicts the mystery of the “Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple”. The prophetess, Anna, is one of “Christmas's witnesses” --one of those “burning torches” whose holiness of life prepared her to “Behold, the Bridegroom” (Mt. 25:6) and exhort others to “Come out to meet him!” (Mt. 25:6).
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. In the English language, the root meaning of the word, epiphany, is “to bring to light”. Certainly the mystery of this Solemnity “brings to light”--reveals--who Jesus is. There is a great need today to both bring people to the Light, himself, and to bring the Light (Jesus) to people.
“The Baptism of the Lord”
Of all the Solemnities and Feasts of the Christmas Season, the Feast of “The Baptism of the Lord” is the only one where Jesus appears in the gospels in the full maturity of adulthood rather than as an infant or even as a young boy. Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River inaugurates his mission. It will be the mission of the “mature” Lamb of God, and sub-“mission” will be key.
“He Came to Us at Night”
One of my favorite Christmas carols is, “O Holy Night”. It begins with the lyrics, “O holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth.” This Christmas I have been drawn particularly to the idea of Jesus having been born at night. We are told in Luke's Gospel (see Luke 2:8,9) that the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were keeping the night watch over their flock to proclaim to them the good news
“It's a Must”
This year on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the gospel is from Luke 2:41-52. It is the story of the finding of the child, Jesus, in the temple. Two times Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and did not leave after wards: At the age of twelve; and, twenty one years later at the age of thirty three, when he offered himself as the Passover Lamb for our salvation on the cross.
“A Star to Look up to”
There are many lessons to be learned from the Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord. One of these is that the most important gift is not found under the Christmas tree but rather under the star: Jesus! Everyone, whether he or she knows it consciously or not, is on a “journey to find Jesus”, love's pure light. He is the one whom we seek. As the line from the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings” says, “guide us to thy perfect light”.
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