Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why Aleppo and Cairo should change Christmas!

As Christmas approaches I can't help but think of the people of Aleppo. Or the many women and children recently killed (martyred) in Cairo. How can we not? How can we not think of them when they are being killed for believing in Christmas. For believing in Christ.

I recently gave a presentation at a parish on the meaning of the Incarnation and how this spills over into our every day life. The very word incarnation--to become flesh-- takes on so many meanings when we relate it to how we incarnate our faith. And never, ever has it been more dire to realize the meaning of the incarnation or how to incarnate the faith than now. If we let this Christmas pass as just another celebration, another festive occasion where we exchange a myriad of gifts, than those deaths, on the other side of the world, have merely been in vain to us.

This is not possible! It would be scandalous!

Let me start by just saying that our God, the triune God that we proclaim as Father and Son and Holy Spirit, is a very practical God. Our faith, the Catholic faith, is very practical. This time, right now that we are living, the season of Advent, is proposed by the Church so that we may prepare, for that very day when Christ returns, as an infant, on Christmas.

And what God is this, that comes to us as an innocent child? What God would "become flesh" and come as we all do, through the womb of a woman (a virgin mother) and be born in a stable? You see, our thought of that cozy little wooden stable is not at all what it was like. In Bethlehem, the rocky, hilly fields were dotted with natural caves where many used to find shelter for themselves and for their animals.

It is there, in a dingy, dark, stench ridden cave, where beasts once hid from the elements, that our Lord and Savior was born. Then He was laid in a manger which is none other than a feeding trough where beasts would feed. And what did they fill this trough with? Prickly, stinky, probably dirty hay. A baby. Born into this? Much less, the son of God?

There you have it, the King of kings came to this poor dwelling to be visited by the marginalized shepherds and later to be found and adored by Kings of the East and not royalty of His own region. In fact, in Scripture we read that Jesus was found to be a threat to King Herod. (Mt 2:16) Basically, this small infant was a threat to the most powerful empire known to man. Ask yourselves how that can be and it will give you a bit of insight as to how over two-thousand years later there is no Roman Empire, yet Jesus is still worshipped. If Jesus was merely "a good religious man", how can this be?

So let's just say that this year, of all years, you will make a concerted effort to teach your children what Christmas is really all about.  You will teach them the true meaning of--Christ-mas. Then will come the presents and the food and the family and all the other trappings. Beautiful none-the-less but trappings at best. Good enough?

God became man. God, His very creative Word, that was there from all eternity--"Let us make man in our image." Gen. 1:26."-- (the choice of pronoun referring to more than one person). God Himself chose to take on our humanity so that we would receive His divinity. No other religious figure has claimed this. None! "If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:7. He never hid the fact that He and God were one.

God. Became. Man.

"And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us." John 1:14.

Meditate on the fact that God, who is all perfect; all knowing; all present, would take on our own miserable state. That is something to ponder on. That He could have come into this world in any way He chose because. He is God!  But instead, He came to know what it was like to be man. To suffer like us. To love like us. To cry like us and laugh like us. To work like us and to live like us. "For we do not have a high priest [God] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

This is our God.

This is the God that so many in the past decade have died for. So many in the past century and these past sixteen years have died for. More martyrs than ever before!

This is the God that in the recent weeks many have been tortured, beaten, enslaved, murdered, raped, bombed and humiliated for. This, the very God, that comes to us as a child on Christmas. The God for which blood has been shed and witnesses have been proclaimed. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas--"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." John 3:16.

The very Scripture passage, John 3:16, that you will find on the bottom of a Forever Twenty-One shopping bag, proclaims the God that gives His life for us so that all those who have died recently in Aleppo and in Cairo and all the other places that go unrecognized, live on in eternity. Eternity.

So how could we go beyond our trappings and make this Christmas count? How can we, who have the freedom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, not only teach our children what the true meaning of Christmas is, but also show them how to live it? How can we incarnate the meaning of Christmas--of what it means to be a Christian--in our life?

Go to worship the God that is being proclaimed on the tongue of those who draw their last breath before their enemies. Our enemies.

Pray for these enemies. Pray for the sufferings of those who's God given freedom of worshiping Him has been stripped away, because like Herod, they are threatened by Christ. Who would not be threatened by a God with so much love that He came to be with us? Who would not be threatened by a God that is so powerful, people give up their lives for Him? Freely!

Seek a relationship with Him. Speak to Him. Get to know Him in Scripture. Come to know this God that people give their lives up for. The God that has given His life for you!

As I sit here in my warm, cozy house, all decorated for this Christmas, I ask myself, would I recognize Christ if I was threatened with death? Would I display the same courage these people have shown to the world, a world that barely listens to these modern day martyrs? Would I allow the name of Christ to be the last word that my own mouth proclaims?

I only hope and pray that I too, may have the same courage. I pray to have the same incarnated faith so that I too would give up my life for Him.

Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year. Celebrate it because so many others cannot. Celebrate Christ, because without Him, there would be no Christmas.

God bless you and may the infant Jesus be born in your hearts and remind you that the precious gift of freedom we have is not guaranteed in this world, but is certain in the next.

A happy and blessed Christmas to all.

1 comment:

  1. Poignant. True. Inspiring, deeply moving. Thank you dear friend for this wonderful and meaningful tribute to Jesus and the martyrs. Much love and merry Christmas