May the joy of the angels, the humility of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wisemen, and the love of the Christ child be among God’s gifts to you this Christmas.
Ron Rolheiser, OMI
THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS – CONNECTING THE DOTS BETWEEN THE CRIB AND THE CROSS
The Gospel stories about the birth of Jesus are not a simple retelling of the events that took place then, at the stable in Bethlehem.
In his commentaries on the birth of Jesus, the renowned scripture scholar, Raymond Brown, highlights that these narratives were written long after Jesus had already been crucified and had risen from the dead and that they are colored by what his death and resurrection mean.
At one level, they are as much stories about Jesus’ passion and death as they are about his birth. When the Gospel writers looked back at the birth of Jesus through the prism of the resurrection they saw in his birth already the pattern for both his active ministry and his death and resurrection: God comes into the world and some believe and accept him and others hate and reject him. For some, his person gives meaning, for others it causes confusion and anger.
There is an adult message about Christ in Christmas and the meaning of Christmas is to be understood as much by looking at the cross as by looking at the crib. Hardly the stuff of our Christmas lights, carols, cribs, and Santa. And yet, these too have their place. Karl Rahner, not naïve to what Raymond Brown asserts, argues that, even so, Christmas is still about happiness and the simple joy of children captures the meaning of Christmas more accurately than any adult cynicism.
At Christmas, Rahner contends, God gives us a special permission to be happy: “Do not be afraid to be happy, for ever since I [God] wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope. … I no longer go away from the world, even if you do not see me now. … I am there. It is Christmas. Light the candles. They have more right to exist than all the darkness. It is Christmas. Christmas that lasts forever.”
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