How easily we imagine Christmas as a return to the Bethlehem of old. In the music and art of Christmas, in the nativity scenes we recreate, in the Christmas cards we send and receive, we find comfort and joy in images of a newborn baby held in the arms of an adoring mother, with proud father standing beside. Angels hovering in the night sky above – a nice touch!
Inspired by Luke, the Feast of Christmas invites us to remember and reflect upon this unique, holy moment in time and to celebrate its meaning for us in the present.
The prologue to the Gospel of John calls us to see Christmas in a very different way. The writer calls us to reflect, not on images of mother and child in a stable, or shepherds watching or cattle lowing. John speaks of the Word that possesses life and vitality, light shining in the darkness, light that warms, illumines and clarifies.
John introduces us to a human being who speaks the truth with grace. The Word: light, power, truth, grace dwelling within us, living and breathing within us. At this moment, here and now. Indeed, in every moment in the ordinary rhythm of our lives. This Word became one with us and remains with us still.
So while much of our Christmas observance is about pondering the past, John’s Gospel invites us into deeper engagement with the present moment of our lives. The Word was made flesh, not an abstraction, not a spiritual exercise, not some ghostlike or invisible force or energy. The Holy One of Christmas is close to us; intimately close, reminding us that we are loved to the depths of our being, and thus bearing us the gift of healing and reconciliation.
Reconciliation is a strange word. It can be traced from the Latin meaning “eyelash”. Christmas invites us to stand eyelash to eyelash with God. God sees us exactly as we are and loves us still. And in this Christ of God whose birth we celebrate, we see all that we might dare to become.