The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
December 25, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Is 52:7-10 / Ps 98 / Heb 1:1-6 / Jn 1:1-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
I’ve always had a special feeling for Christmas, because Christmas is one of the best memories I have of my childhood. I remember that in the Philippines, every Christmas after we attended Midnight Mass, my parents and siblings gathered together to watch the fireworks. After that, we prayed together and had our meal.
This is what Christmas is: It is fathers, mothers, children. It is learning how to love. It is learning how to care. It is learning how to be the people that we really want to be and know we can be, if we have enough faith in ourselves and in the people around us.
Christmas is a wonderful feast. It is so extraordinary, so unbelievable. Imagine, here is God Himself, Creator of all the universe, and He decides to send His Son to become man. And the child comes where? He comes to a hopeless little village in a forgotten country under the oppression of a foreign power. He comes, not a scholar with wonderful teachings. He does not come as someone who is a leader of armies. He does not come with strength, power, and dazzling display. He comes as a little baby, a needy child.
We wonder why. Why does His Father feel that this is place to show the reality of God to all His creatures? Make no mistake, the child is something very special. He is the Son of God. He is God made flesh. The prayer of the Jewish people, “Emmanuel, Emmanuel, God is with us,” now takes on a deeper meaning, for when the child comes, it is God Himself with us, deeply within and sharing deeply our very lives, our joys, our fears, our anxieties. This is what it means to come today before this little child.
Why did God have to do it this way? Because He came to teach us only one thing: how to love. Love demands weakness, not strength. Love demands recognition in your heart that you need people. You need those people around you. You need them in the depths of your own heart. God has come to show you that this is what He does. He creates us with a hunger for love, that we might hunger for Him and also for others.
As Christians, what are we supposed to do as followers of Jesus Christ? What Jesus has told us. God loves the world so much that He gives His only begotten Son, and in turn, the Son loves this world so much that He lays down His life for each and every one of us. God’s love is the only thing that will change the world.
Christmas is the mother of the heart, not just the head. It is the heart. If the heart opens and receives the God who comes, needy and vulnerable, and takes this God to himself or herself, then and only then will the world change. That is why Jesus says, “I love you as my friends, and now there is only one commandment: that you learn to love each other as I have loved you.” This is the wonder of Christmas.
Have you ever heard the story of the medieval juggler, known as Our Lady’s Juggler? His performance brought a statue of the Virgin Mary to life. The story revolves around a traveling juggler, most commonly named Barnaby, who makes his living by entertaining crowds of people in the streets. One day, he grows weary of his lifestyle and decides to enter a monastery. Although he tries to be as pious and devout as the other monks, deep down he feels guilty that he cannot pray, read, or write as they do. He doubts whether he is cut out to be a monk after all.
Upon discovering a statue of Mary in the crypt below the monastery, Barnaby decides to perform his devotions to her in the only way he knows how: juggling. Every day, he goes to visit her and jumps and dances, flips and twirls until he exhausts himself by entertaining her. Eventually, some of the monks get suspicious of his absences and decide to follow him. As they watch him perform, they become angry because they find his behavior to be sacrilegious. Just as they are about to break down the door and punish him, a miracle happens.
Barnaby faints from exhaustion, and as he does, the statue of the Virgin comes to life. Glowing and radiant, she descends from her niche to wipe the sweat from his face and cradle him in her arms. The monks stand speechless, immediately regretting their assumptions, and see Barnaby as a true saint and holy man of God.
So goes the story. If you go to Paris, you can find the little monastery and church where the juggler performed. The message of the story is that what God wants from us is nothing more than our whole heart and our whole soul, given to Him to be shared by others.
This also is the meaning of Christmas. If we learn to do it well, then our lives change, our community changes, our world changes. At the heart and healing of salvation, of love and compassion, is our gift of ourselves not just to God, but to each other in humble service.