In the midst of the darkness, a great light shines forth. In a humble town of shepherds, the Savior, Christ the Lord, the King of Kings, lies sleeping. In a feed-trough, the manger of farm animals, the humble of Bethlehem find the Creator of the Stars wrapped in swaddling clothes. This child is the firstborn of His virgin mother, conceived without the help of any man. He is in Bethlehem to be counted and taxed by a human Emperor, even though He Himself made all lands, peoples, and nations. Through His foster father, He is the descendent of centuries of kings, priests, and patriarchs, participants in their broken way in friendship with God. At the same time, God has done something entirely new in bringing Him to birth, refreshing the whole tired world in a moment.
Indeed, Christmas is a feast of contrasts. We hear of power revealed in weakness, glory in humility, fruitfulness in chastity, and triumph in seeming failure. It is a day that reminds us that God’s logic is not our own. It reminds us that what demands our attention in the world is not often that which matters most. It reminds us that no matter how things appear on the outside, no matter how they seem to be going, no matter what seems to be true in the eyes of the secular order, God has reality itself entirely in hand, and His good will and loving design will not, and cannot be thwarted or defeated. In the face of worldly power, opinions, and agendas, there is the innocent Christ child who remains unconquerably almighty. Through His life, death, and resurrection as a human person, born today in humble obscurity, God will in fact conquer all sin, death, and evil, and open the doors of heaven and perfect justice. No matter what goes on around us the Lord God remains in charge, and so long as we remain faithful to Him in friendship, confident in His power and goodness, we will be able to receive and experience His presence with and care for us. The contrasts of the day encourage us to look at all things in a supernatural way, and encounter the Lord’s hidden but assured triumph.
This trust in the power and goodness of God hold profound importance for our spiritual lives. It is in the victory of this little baby, lying in a manger, that we will have victory ourselves, but we have to believe that this child is capable of overcoming the world. We must, with the help of grace, make that act of belief, setting aside fear, doubt, self-reliance, and a desire to control, in order to confide all our needs and good desires to the infant Jesus. It is true, we will suffer in this life, even under His care, but He will not abandon us in any suffering, and even this first day of His life on Earth, encompassed in poverty and need, shows that He is not afraid of bearing suffering along with us.
This Christmas, we have the opportunity to exchange gifts with this little divine person. We can lay our worries, fears, doubts, and sufferings down at His feet, along with our love, devotion, and acts of trust. He, in return, will give us courage, renewed strength, comfort, and joy, as well as the greatest gifts of all, faith, hope and love, a share in His own inner life. In this way, the contrasts of this great feast will bear the fruit of tranquility in this life, and peaceful fulfillment in the life to come. For now though, Merry Christmas to you all!