Do we wait for Christmas morning with a joyful expectation or has life’s disappointments left us jaded and closed to any spiritual surprises or gifts from God our Father? Come to think of it, how many of us actually expect to receive any spiritual joy on Christmas morning?
When we are secretly cynical, we will not receive a thing, not even a tiny flicker of Light because we have locked the door to our hearts. Then, our cynicism will be confirmed once again, just like last year and we will cement our cynicism in place until next year.
Many of us are actually just like Scrooge, that traditional symbol for someone who has been so wounded by disappointment and jaded by life that he cannot embrace the spirit of giving during Christmas. Scrooge wasn’t just stingy, he was miserable, with his heart closed to other people and to love and joy.
Yet we all long for the dark, empty places within us to be flooded with His light. The answer to our dilemma can be discovered when we observe children because they can teach us how to wait for the Christ Child to be born anew in our hearts. Kids trust and believe the words of both their earthly and heavenly Fathers. Think of a young child, eyes twinkling, barely able to sit still and contain his excitement because he knows his dad will never give him a stone instead of a Christmas gift.
Becoming God’s Children
No wonder Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:4, “I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” When we are in a relationship with God, He slowly transforms us into His sons and daughters. In fact, this is the core message of the Gospels. Pope Francis constantly reminds us that:
The central purpose of Jesus’ mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters.
We were made to be God’s children; it is in our DNA, the Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father.
Pope Francis shines a light on countless Scripture passages which reveal our intimate relationship with the Almighty:
Galatians 3:26: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Deuteronomy 14:1: You are the sons of the Lord your God.
John 1:12: But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.
Romans 8:14: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:16: The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
I Can Be a Counterpoint of Light
When I humbling submit and let go of my adult sense of independence to embrace my relationship with God as my daddy, I have the freedom to welcome more and more of His light into my inner darkness. I can turn my eyes to the Child Jesus in silent expectation, waiting to be filled with hope because it is Christmas, a celebration of light, joy, and peace on earth.
The Christmas season is a proverbial time for waiting with Mary in the darkness for the birth of the Christ Child. It is a time to silently listen in expectation. It is a time to sweep away the clutter in our hearts and souls by simplifying our lives to make room for a rebirth in our own hearts for this child called Jesus. But we can become stuck; more accustomed to the darkness than the Light. preferring the darkness to the Light.
Pregnant During Christmas
I must admit, as a woman, I have an advantage over men. Since I was pregnant with two of my children during Advent, I can identify with the pregnant Mary in a deeper way and receive the gift of new life just like she did in Bethlehem. One of my babies was born on Christmas Eve and the second, my youngest child, on January 7, the day after Epiphany
We had just moved to our new farm with a larger house since I was expecting our ninth child. My oldest child had started high school while five others attended a small Catholic school with 10 grades from junior kindergarten to grade 8.
One day in December, the priest led an Advent reflection in the gym and asked the children, “Who is waiting for the birth of a new brother or sister this Advent?”
Five hands went up.
“Oh my, isn’t this wonderful,” the priest exclaimed, without really identifying each face, “So many families are joining Mary, waiting for the birth of a baby!”
Then a smart aleck grade 8 student yelled out, “No Father, those are all Juneau kids with their hands raised!”
I sometimes joke that I needed to experience birth so many times because I really did not get what God was trying to tell me the first time around. The Father is so kind, he repeated His lesson again and again.
Mary and Her Baby
Mary must have experienced what all mothers experience the moment Jesus was born, but I imagine her joy was even more profound as all the angels rejoiced around them. All women forgot the exhaustion and pain of labour the moment we hold our newborn. For me, a surge of motherly love rose up in my heart combined with a sense of awe at the miracle of creation as I examined tiny, perfectly formed fingers and toes.
Mary and the Infant Jesus Bonded
Imagine Mary gazing into the eyes of the Incarnation and soaking in His love. Why, there is something about an ordinary baby’s open, trusting gaze that literally draws love from us, never mind looking into the face of the Infant God.
A newborn can see clearly for about eight inches, just far enough to focus intently on an adult’s face. It is almost as if the initiative to bond comes from the baby first, especially when I consider their fierce hand grip they clutched fingers and clothing. To ensure that mothers nurse, babies are born with a powerful rooting reflex and a cry which literally triggers the let-down reflex for milk, soaking clothes if mothers do not start nursing quickly enough.
Babies do not even have a sense of themselves apart from their mothers for the first year because their whole identities are intricately entwined with mum. I would think Jesus went through this same stage of development. No wonder Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces; she soaked in the love of God and simply allows it to flow through her to us.
To receive this love of God flowing through Mary, we simply must give our own fiat to God with her as she said, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). If our “Yes” to the Lord is whispered from our centre, the place where our deepest identity is rooted, we will experience a rebirth this Christmas morning. We may feel we do not have enough faith to receive such a wonderful gift of life but God is more powerful than our doubts and hears the longings of our heart.
A Christmas Prayer
God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.