So it’s Christmas Day once again and I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
It has become necessary for us to ask the question, ‘What is Christmas? This is because, and I know this may sound rather cliche; but the season has become so secularized that its meaning is being grossly distorted. So as Christians we are forced; or we must ask ourselves the question – what am I celebrating in Christmas?
The first reading for today’s Christmas Mass celebration gives us a tremendous insight as to what we should be celebrating. From the prophet Isaiah, we read,
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of gloom, a light has shown.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their task master you have smashed as on the day of Midian.”
That is just half of that first reading for Christmas Day and it says quite a lot. First off it speaks of a people who walked in darkness and they have seen a great light, a light that dispels all darkness; that light is Christ Jesus. A light that brings a joy like none ever experienced. A light that shines the way that we ought to go. A light that brings great hope.
This year – 2017 – was an extremely difficult year for many of our Caribbean neighbours. It has been a difficult year I believe for the entire world as we have seen and experienced turmoils like we have never seen nor experienced before. Right within our own Caribbean region, we have had storms rampage through our Islands and leaving many completely devastated. In the message from the prophet Isaiah, the darkness spoken of is far greater than these. The darkness spoken of here is far greater than the hardship that life throws at us. This message from Isaiah brings a great message of Hope for the Light of Christ has come into the world. This message of Isaiah also forces us to understand what darkness really is.
For centuries, the people in Jesus’ time awaited the coming of the Messiah. Many saw him only as a political figure who would liberate them from the hands of the political tyrants of that time. However the Gospel of Matthew tells us very clearly what the primary mission of this heralded Messiah would be. When the angel appeared to Joseph, speaking of Jesus he said, and you must call him Jesus because he is the one who will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21). The angel did not say that he is the one who will save his people from the Herods of that time. The angel did not say that he is the one who would free you from the political tyrants. The angel who is the messenger from God said he is the one who will save his people from their sins.
One of the challenges that our world faces, and Pope Saint John Paul II wrote about it; is that the world has lost a sense of sin. The world has lost a sense of Eternity. We have been reprogrammed into thinking that this life that we live is all that there is; which is completely contra to Christmas since God stepped out of Eternity into our sinful world so that we can enter into the eternal life that he came to give and that he intended for us to have from the very beginning of time. Unfortunately, much of the world is seeking to satisfy the flesh. St. Paul writes extensively about this in his many letters recorded in the Holy Bible. He wrote in great detail about the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. If we seek to satisfy the flesh then we will get the rewards of the flesh which is eternal damnation. If however we seek to satisfy the spirit then we will gain eternal life. (Ref. Romans 8: 5-8)
So our life here on earth is not meant to be all that there is. We are meant to spend eternity with God. The obstacle to us spending eternity with God is not sickness. The obstacle to us spending eternal life with God is not poverty. The obstacles to us entering into eternal life is not the severe storms that life throws at us. The obstacles to us spending eternal life with God is not hurricane Maria, it is not Hurricane Jose, not any earthquake or any natural disaster that may come our way. The obstacle to us spending eternal life with God is sin. That is why God sent his Son into the world. To conquer sin and death.
So this is what Christmas is about. It is about good conquering evil. It is about the light coming into the world to dispel the darkness. It is about God’s commitment to a sinful world because he loves us so very much in spite of our wretchedness. This is by no means to say that the natural disasters that many have experienced this year are of no consequence, or they are not important. Much of the natural disasters that are experienced, much of the hardship that our world has been reeling under this year are born out of the same sin that Jesus came into the world to conquer. Pope Francis wrote about this in the Encyclical letter entitled “Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home”.
When the prophet Isaiah spoke of the yolk that has burdened them; the pole on their shoulder and the rod of their task master being smashed, the yolk that was burdensome, that rod that weighed us down, was sin; and by Jesus’ entry into the world, that burden has been smashed! The chains of sin which is far greater than the suffering that many undergo in this life; those chains of sin were broken by the Son of God entering into our Humanity.
If we can understand and remember this, if we can, by the grace of God and through the power of His Holy Spirit, wrap our minds and our hearts around this truth, then we can, and will celebrate Christmas as it ought to be celebrated. Then we can with great gratitude welcome Jesus into our hearts.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah continues;
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They shall call him Wonder-Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and Justice both now and forever. The jealous love of the Lord of hosts will do this!”
One cannot help but notice a sense of great commitment from God towards us coming to the end of this first reading. Some translations say “the Zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!” Other translations say “the jealous love of the Lord of hosts will do this!” Either way, the commitment of God towards this sinful world is very clear and very obvious. God wants to save us all. God wants to Deliver us from our greatest rival, from our greatest enemy which is sin. That is why he sent his son. That is why we have Christmas. That is why we celebrate this beautiful season.
Christmas day is celebrated on the 25th of December, which is but one day. However, the Catholic Church presents us with the season of Christmas which spans 12 days. So the church celebrates the coming of the Christ child and by extension God’s amazing faithfulness, God’s amazing commitment towards Humanity for 12 days. Each day, the readings help us to understand even better how much God loves us.
I sincerely pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, your minds will be expanded to grasp and to understand this truth; and in understanding it you will live it with all your heart, all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength; and in living this truth you will experience and become conduits for the joy of Christmas, not only at Christmas time but throughout your entire life.
Merry Christmas to you and to yours.