Where do we find God? On that very first Christmas night, the shepherds, while tending their sheep in the cold and the dark, “are addressed by an angel who shines upon them with the blinding glory of God” (von Balthasar, You Crown the Year with Your Goodness, p.275) and they are filled with fear. Our encounter with God happens very much the same way: the God of glory who created us and who shares His life with us continually seeks us out in order to establish an everlasting bond of life-giving love. Although there is never a moment when God doesn’t reach out to touch us with His loving embrace, we are often so caught-up in the affairs of our busy lives that we hardly even notice or have time for God at all. But like the shepherds, it is during the times that we least expect—when dad has a sudden heart attack; when your wife is diagnosed with breast cancer; when your sixteen year-old daughter becomes pregnant; when you lose your job and have no idea how to support your family—it is during the cold, dark, and fearful periods of our lives that we turn to Jesus Christ, the Son of God laid to rest in a manger, who leads us through the valley of tears, who guides us in the way of peace, who has been patiently waiting for us our entire lives to answer His call to love.
Where do we find God? When I held my oldest daughter Claire in my arms for the first time on the day she was born; when I came face-to-face with the reality that this new life was totally dependent upon Colleen and me for her happiness and well being—for her very life, a life that I helped to create—I was completely overwhelmed with feelings of unconditional love and incredible joy. For the first time in my life, I had just an inkling, a glimpse, of what God’s love must be like and that God loves me infinitely more than I could ever love my child. Tonight, God comes to us as a child. “The Child who is named ‘Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace’ is born for every man and woman. He brings with him the answers [to the meaning of life, answers] which can calm our fears and reinvigorate our hope. … Like the shepherds, we too on this wonderful night cannot fail to experience the desire to share with others the joy of our encounter with this ‘child wrapped in swaddling clothes’, in whom the saving power [of God and the everlasting love] of the Almighty is revealed” (Pope John Paul II, 24 December 2001). On this holy night, we marvel at the greatness of Christ’s littleness, of the coming of Christ as man in order to raise us to the heights of His divinity! (cf. Minute Meditations from the Popes, p.182).
Where do we find God? As I delivered Christmas food boxes to our neighbors in need last weekend, I felt somewhat saddened at the conditions I found as I entered those homes. I saw families making the best of what little they had. I saw that the food I was bringing might be the only full meal they would eat for the entire week. I saw the joy on the faces of children who made sure that they said a heartfelt, “Thank you!,” and all I could do was smile and say, “You’re welcome, Merry Christmas,” as I left to go to the next house. I knew that on Christmas day I would be warm, well fed, and surrounded by family and friends. Santa would bring lots of presents and we would “make the rounds” to several Christmas parties celebrating the season with much joy and happiness. But as I drove home, I thought of the stable where Jesus was born; of the manger that was his bed; of Mary and Joseph’s great courage in raising a child in poverty, trusting in God alone, and I smiled thinking that the families I visited were not celebrating Christmas: they were living it. The Christ-child offers a sign of hope for the whole human family; as sign of peace for those suffering from hardships of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin and addiction; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned (cf. Pope John Paul II, 24 December 2002). A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign, but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man (cf. Pope John Paul II, 24 December 2002).
Let us place our joys and fears, our tears and hopes at the feet of the Word Incarnate born for us this night. Jesus “comes into the world in order to transform creation. He becomes a man among men, so that in him and through him every human being can be profoundly renewed. By his birth, he draws us into the realm of the divine, granting to those who in faith open themselves to receiving his gift the possibility of sharing his own divine life” (Pope John Paul II, 24 December 1998). Let us pray that the light of Christ, that shown so brightly that first Christmas night, remove the darkness of sin, illumine our minds and hearts, and reveal in us the richness and beauty of God’s truth and love. O come, let us adore him: Christ the Lord!