By the Rev. SHANE L. KIRBY
Every December, it seems, Christmas takes up the whole month. In actuality, it begins now even before Thanksgiving. Remember Thanksgiving Day? Every year we all bemoan the commerciality of the season and how it seems to rob this time of its true meaning. However, there are some remnants of what it's all about that can be found anywhere and everywhere if we look for them.
For example, this season of the year often comes to mind as a season of peace. Christmas cards often have this beautiful word written in elaborate calligraphy to express this ardent desire of mankind. When, as now, we are a nation at war, we desire peace more than ever. Yet political peace is not why Jesus took on our humanity in that lowly stable, not why he walked the earth in ancient Palestine, not why he went to his death on the cross. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings instead peace between us and God and, thereby, peace within ourselves. "Born to raise the sons of earth," the carol sings, "born to give them second birth." The age-old curse of sin and death waged its war upon us, and the Prince of Peace came as one of us to do battle with these powers and gain for us the victory.
The weapons that this mighty warrior used were not of steel or iron; they were not sharp and cutting. By contrast, the weapons of our great King were flesh and blood, mind and spirit, his holy and blessed humanity. With these weapons, the Lord Jesus touched and healed the sick, preached the good news of salvation to all, and passed through death to life in order to share that greatest of all gifts with us. Before all this could take place, however, a girl in Nazareth had to say yes. Before Calvary, there had to be Bethlehem.
If Christmas seems too commercial, too filled with activity, too focused on gifts and money, then follow the example set by Mary herself. St. Ambrose of Milan (d.397 A.D.) once wrote that though only she could bring him to birth in the flesh, you can bring him to birth by your faith. Bring Christ to birth yourselves by reading his word, believing in him and sharing that belief with others. Give His presence with the presents you give, and they will mean so much more. Let the Lord work through you in this time of grace so that others may see him in you and, thus, he comes once more. "No ear may hear his coming," another carol sings, "but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in."
- Kirby is the pastor at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish in Williamsport