Fr. John Burger

From the Director

By Fr. John Burger

In the midst of all the busyness that encumbers the days leading up to Christmas there is a desperate need for a moment of silent wonder as we are invited into the mystery that changes everything, the mystery of the incarnation. In our soul we know this mystery needs to be celebrated by more than wrapping presents and overeating!

Infant JesusWe want to see and touch and be seen and touched by the Divine child. We long to experience and share in the hope and joy this holy night promises. The angels appeared to shepherds: “Do not be afraid…A savior is born for all people…and here is the sign…you will find a child lying in a manger.” In our worldly view we might quibble, “What do you mean ‘lying in a manger?…in a stable?’ What kind of savior is born in a stable?” Yet centuries of prophesies, the hopes of tribes and peoples are fulfilled in a baby in a stable in Bethlehem.

What is the significance of all this? God, who is beyond our comprehension, became a vulnerable baby so that we might connect with Him. Have you ever been able not to smile at a baby? He is born, not in a palace, but in a stable. The mystic, Thomas Merton pointed out, “Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make his Bethlehem.” Jesus came to save me from those desolate parts of my life, the sins I do not want to acknowledge. This December it is still possible to let Him come close and touch those wounds and heal that pain. Are you carrying resentments and hurts? Surrender them to the infant Jesus. Let the trusting poor shepherd within you emerge from behind your mask of toughness and sophistication.

The child is placed in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, reminding us that the altar, the communion table, becomes a place of nourishment every time we come to the Eucharist. It is the place where we come to eat and drink the body of the Lord so that Christ becomes part of us and we become that which we eat. The savior became small and vulnerable to make our hearts more tender. May we all be filled with a deep joy in knowing that because of this night everything is transformed, made new.

God, who is beyond our comprehension, became a vulnerable baby so that we might connect with Him.

Do not be surprised that those who have the least trouble accepting this message are the ragged, even the rejected poor. The Good News is bad news for those who cannot surrender to it. They will reject and even persecute those who bear witness to it.

God is with us, not as some frightening judge, but as a baby who needs and wants human warmth. He is with us when we are caught in an impossible situation, or face illness, or when we laugh with our friends, or when we tear up over the death of a loved one.

Because of the birth of this child nothing human remains outside the presence of God. Let’s return that love by accepting our mission. The late great Anglican theologian, Max Warren put it this way:

Jesus himself is the great commission.
He is the one who is sent.
He himself is the message.
In his life and through his teaching and actions,
In his dying and in his death,
And by his resurrection,
He is the proclamation of his Message.
He is its herald.

This fundamental affirmation is the theme for the New Testament.