At the heart of the mystery celebrated at Christmas is the astonishing fact that God himself, in his final attempt to show how much he loved us, sent his only Son to share our humanity. Saint Paul describes it as self-emptying. Instead of holding on to the privileges due to God, this vulnerable baby was born in poor circumstances and in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire.
The extraordinary mystery is that Jesus shares so completely in our humanity that we, as a result, share in his divinity. It is hard to find the words to describe it. The reality is that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem sweeps us into the life of God. “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me”, was how Paul put it. All people of every faith and none benefit from this mystery. Pope Francis says “God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age.” All of us can testify to the generosity and sometimes heroism which was part of the magnificent reaching out in charity which we have found in people without explicit faith.
The girl next door describes herself as ‘non-religious’ and yet showed great courage in declaring her willingness to return to the people of Sierra Leone to care for the victims of the ebola epidemic. We people of faith are often challenged by others to give the kind of witness of loving service that this woman gives.
Photographs from recent scenes have jolted us into at least a low level of understanding of the extent of the refugee problem throughout our world. We have evidence of our own country’s problems before our eyes if we open our hearts. There were men and women of a particular kind who regularly commanded the attention of Jesus as he traversed the roads of his homeland. We cannot contemplate these happenings without asking ourselves why the Son of God would choose to be born into a family that was poor and lived in a setting of exclusion.
The birth of Christ and the circumstances of his life challenges us to be in solidarity with the oppressed, the marginalised and “expendable” people of our own day. Christ is the supreme witness of this love. Often the humanity and heroism of the “non-religious” bring our understanding of solidarity to a point of action. Wherever we find the inspiration to bring us there, to savour the lasting joy of the Christmas incarnation we need to self-empty like Paul describes it. That will clear the space for the otherwise excluded and help us to be authentic followers of Jesus. Let what we give be ourselves.
May we experience the authentic joy of giving this Christmas.
+Liam S. MacDaid +John McDowell
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