MovingBeyond the Dream
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-20)
This scene is among the most beloved of not just the Christmas story but the whole Bible. It is the source of all of our Christmas stories and nativity scenes and reminds us that childlike wonder need not be the sole province of the young. It encapsulates beauty and tenderness in which we see God's parental heart revealed. Christmas ideally captures a dream that is for all of us.
However there is a major problem. The wheels fall off the yuletide trolley every year when it comes to understanding what we're really supposed to be celebrating. In many parts of the Western world at least, Christmas paraphernalia seem to be appearing in the shops earlier and earlier. We have successfully detached the meaning of the feast and its symbols from their religious origins. We have allowed commercialism to dictate what we need for this celebration. In doing so we have managed to smudge over the deeper reality of Christmas and its implications for us and our world. One talkback radio guest angrily demanded to know what Christmas had to do with religion. We've come a long way!
The deeper reality is a bit too confronting and not a little discomforting. We should celebrate joyfully that God in Jesus became one of us and invited us to live a certain way: to see that we are brothers and sisters; that all have a right to be on this earth and to access its resources; that all deserve to live in peace; that the poor, displaced and the marginalized take priority; that the earth is God's first revelation, a gift to us that is holy and needs to be treated as such; that exploitation of any sort was and is never part of the divine plan.
Christmas does capture a dream, but is not meant to remain as such. That means making changes in the way we live, the way we view the world, the way we regard people, from the zone of our own comfort and prejudices. These are the painful bits and why we smudge things over.
Give us, O God, the vision which can
see Your love in the world in spite of
Give us the faith to trust Your goodness
n spite of our ignorance and weakness.
Give us the knowledge that we may
ontinue to pray with understanding hearts.
And show us what each one of us can do
to set forward the coming of the day of
– Astronaut Frank Borman, Apollo 8 space mission, 1968
Columban Fr. Jack Evans lives and works in Australia.