A little girl woke up in the middle of the night, terrified of the dark. She was sure there was a monster in her room, so she ran into her parents’ bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and eventually led her back to her own bedroom. She put a small light on, tucked the little girl in, and said, “Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone. God is here with you.” The little girl replied, “I know God is here, but I need someone with skin!”
Christmas is the feast that celebrates “God’s skin,” that is, the great mystery of the Incarnation. On this day we celebrate the fact that the almighty Creator who fashioned the billions upon billions of stars, who breathed life and intelligence into beings, became a human being on planet earth. In his book, The WOW Factor: Bringing the Catholic Faith to Life,” Fr. William O’Malley, SJ, puts it this way (rather bluntly): “…this limitless God freely constrained himself to the limits of the human….Being Christian means accepting that this overwhelming celestial Personage once had dirty diapers someone else had to change.”
The Gospel of John says, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14). Literally it means God “pitched his tent among us.” I love that image! But at Christmas we are not celebrating merely the birth of Jesus’ body in Bethlehem. We are celebrating the body of Jesus present in today’s world as well. For the Church teaches that the phrase “Body of Christ” has three meanings: l) the physical body of Christ that walked our earth 2,000 years ago, 2) the Eucharist, and 3) the body of believers. That third phrase means we are Christ’s body today. His presence in the world is largely dependent upon us. What a responsibility that is!
Recently Pope Francis was asked what Christmas meant to him. He said, “Christmas is an encounter with Jesus. It means contemplating the visit of God to his people.” The Pope added, at Christmas God tells us two things: “Have hope and go forward, (for) I am a Father who caresses you.” He said, we must “extend a loving caress to others.”
Extending that loving caress is Christmas’ greatest challenge for us. For it entails taking on Jesus’ values, his priorities, his way of looking at things. When Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” Elisabeth Tentley, writer for The Washington Post wrote this about the Pope: “Without Jesus, there is no Pope Francis.” Can the same be said about me? Without Jesus, there is no _____.” (Fill in the blank with your name.) Tentley continued: “If Francis’ embrace of the disabled, his focus on the poor, his mercy for the sinner sound vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve heard them before. From that Jesus guy.”
At Christmas, then, let us kneel at the manger, yes. Let us pray, wonder, adore, and give thanks. But then let us get up. Let us get up and go forward… be… and do!
GO to those who need our attention…our time…our help…our concern…our financial assistance…our unique gifts…our joy…
DO whatever is in our power to make this world a little better simply because we are in it…
I wish each one of you a very Merry Christmas! I am holding you all in my special prayer!
What gifts of time, attention, and joy are you giving to others this Christmas?
What gifts of time, attention, and joy have you received from others this Christmas?