Most of us enjoy singing the beautiful carols and songs that mark the great Christmas season that we begin today. The past few years have witnessed a plethora of rather unusual if not unnerving songs for Christmas:
And then there was always the one that unsettled my mother: “Grandma Got Run over By a Reindeer.” I’ll stick with the classics.
Of course, we know that this feast points elsewhere. It leads us to the manger of Bethlehem and where we answer the question, “What Child is This?” It allows us to sing of that little town of Bethlehem: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Christmas proclaims the good news that in his immense love for us, God chose to enter the world, not as a majestic king or mighty conqueror, but by seeking out the humility of a manger, by assuming our frail humanity in the simplicity, the fragility of a baby. Nothing changes us or instructs us in love more than the arrival of a baby. The author George Weigel wrote that “infants are human magnets who drain us of our egocentric behavior.” But the infant of Bethlehem we honor and celebrate is no ordinary infant.
This infant is Divinity incarnate: “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” The Venerable Fulton Sheen expressed this reality so beautifully when he wrote:
“This is the first time in the history of this world that anyone could ever think of heaven as being anywhere else than somewhere ‘up there’; when the child was in her arms, Mary looked down on heaven…He who would call himself the living bread, descended from Heaven, was laid in the manger, literally a place to eat. He who could make the sun warm the earth would have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. No one would ever have suspected that God coming to this earth would ever be so helpless.”
Without the mystery of Christmas, God would be impenetrable; his love would appear abstract or distant. But at Christmas we have the human and conclusive proof of God’s love for us. He unites himself to our weakness and suffering. We know that our God is compassionate, approachable and loving.
This love manifest in the humility of Bethlehem would give of itself totally on Calvary for us, to open the gates to the glory of heaven. This is why today we celebrate and can sing the words of the Carol, “Once in David’s Royal City:”
For he is our childhood’s pattern, day by day like us he grew;
He was little, weak and helpless, tears and smiles like us he knew:
And he feels for all our sadness, and he shares in all our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heav’n above:
And he leads us his children on to the place where he has gone.