The Mystery and the Spirit of Christmas
Just as the birth of Jesus brought us life, Christmas brings stories of birth and love.
"Help me! Please. My baby." A woman takes shelter under a bridge as snow falls. If only she could reach the missionary’s house.
“She takes off her own clothes, wraps them around the baby and holds him close in the warm circle of her arms.”
Next day the missionary finds the young mother frozen to death. He lifts the baby tenderly out of her arms. When the boy is ten his adoptive father tells him the story of his mother's death on Christmas Eve. The young boy cries, realizing the sacrifice his mother had made for him.
The next morning the boy's bed was empty. The missionary followed small footprints in the snow back to the bridge where the young mother had died.
Kneeling in the snow is his son, naked and shivering uncontrollably. His clothes lie beside him in a small pile. Moving closer, he hears the boy say through chattering teeth, "Mother, were you this cold for me?" (Korea 1952 - Internet source).
As a child I sat in church, fascinated, staring at the creche. The story of the shepherds and the three kings unfolded under the star as light streamed down, and loved ones sang “Stille Nacht”.
St Francis of Assisi invited the people of his time back to the message of Christ by re-creating the scene of Christ’s birth. He used a full-sized barn with real animals and all that goes with them; the hay and the manger, raised off the ground soiled with animal hoofs and manure.
The simplicity and poverty of it all astounds us. Can we imagine a God wanting so much to love us that he was born in a stable, humble and poor? Maybe that is why we can more easily relate to God at Christmas time. We can come back to church, back to grace, and feel the love.
Babies have a special place in our world at Christmas. Father Brendan McGuire said, “They are all the face of Christ. Every one of them. Here is the most important thing; it means every one of us has the divine seed within us.
“The reason Christ became one of us is for us to know that. He took on the most human condition so that we could know that we are of divine condition.” (from “Creche – The Poverty of Christ”).
McGuire points out that God came in poverty so the most broken, the most vulnerable and those who in our minds are the furthest away from God are the object of God’s love. God says, “You are the image of me. I made you.”
“Those who are broken among us; those who have been wounded; those who have been abused; … who have experienced pain and suffering,” McGuire says, “most especially to you, God is coming and saying to you today: I loved you, I love you, and I will always love you because I created you.
“Nothing will ever separate you from me. No illness. No wound. No brokenness. Nothing that you have ever done or what anyone else has ever done to you, can ever separate you from my love. Not even death can separate you from my love.”
“Fear not. I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 43:1). “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” (St Augustine).