It takes a lifetime to comprehend and to “take in” the meaning of Christmas. It is so much more than all the accumulated customs of music and smells and food from all the countries of the world.
Christmas begins before time began, before there was a world, a planet among the planets. In his gospel, the Evangelist John describes Christmas. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things come to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life.” Life! Life!
And now we know from Science that what came to be is more than 13 billion years old.
Christmas has been here from forever and whatever “eternity” means. I find this mind boggling, and that is why we can never really understand or appreciate Christmas.
I also find very intriguing that it took so long for this Word who created the universe and all that lives to appear in his own self as a person, in a child named Jesus. If it took billions of years for this to happen, how could we possibly expect to comprehend and appreciate what happened in our very short span of life.
I also wonder how many more billions of years of human beings there will be. And what will earth look like, and human beings as well in even 500 years.
The ancient Jewish and Christian worlds, which go back just a few thousand years, spoke of “an End” before there would be heaven. But what if we are in a long evolutionary trajectory, growing and developing toward a new future? What if the “end” as the purpose of what God had in mind arriving at its fullness and completeness, [is] the same Word that John the Evangelist could see? You see, Christmas is more than how St. Francis of Assisi imagined it.
Our second reading from St. Paul tried to describe the Christmas that comes from eternity: “Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately and justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the Word who was with God from all eternity.
It is not necessary to understand or comprehend the “who” and the “what” of Christmas, but more simply to recognize that we are part of great movement of life and love, and the divine energy of God.
I think that it is very important to muse, to reflect, to place Christmas in a cosmic context and not just take it out of a Christmas box.
There is a famous quotation that pinpoints what I wish to share. These are the words of the second century bishop, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, France:
“Because of God’s boundless love, Jesus became what we are, that he might make us to be what he is.” [repeat]
St. Irenaeus explains the Christmas eternity and our yearly celebration of Christmas, each year understanding more and trying to become who God wants us to be like.
As St. Paul wrote once to his disciple and friend Titus: God wants us to acknowledge Him and be a part of family, “eager to do good.”
The problem with our yearly celebration of Christmas is that we forget its focus and expectation — to be an awareness that grows into eternity, to be the motivation of an entire life, to keep working toward reaching the personal transformation into Jesus Christ that eternity offers.
The Christmas eternity offers us a practical environment for practicing the virtues that God desires.
- Hope rather than fear. Either we can join God in re-thinking and re-inventing how we live or be dragged into a pandemic meatgrinder.
- Taking care of God’s DNA in our DNA. We have been made in an honorable way to be honorable. More than creator, God is our loving Father.
- There are many petals to the Flower of our Life. All are connected: caring for life and our environment; sharing our ancient planet that is here for all of us; cultivating friendships and relationships that do not steal from each other; dealing with each other, being just and helping, excluding no one.
The Christmas of eternity does not hoard life or life’s resources. The Christ of Eternity is the source of all that lives. There is no jealousy, no exclusiveness or discrimination, no exploitatio and fear in Christmas.
The great prophets of all the religious faith traditions and those who are seekers of truth have spoken for centuries through their prophets. We do not have to walk in darkness or to do darkness.
Isaiah the prophet of 8th century Israel encouraged the people of his day to be close to God, to walk in Light– to bury the hatchet, to work toward a common good and human unity, not to hit and smash one another as he saw them doing to each other.
Isaiah dreamed of human beings as agents for change — doing peace, being a hero for the good, a model of wise and good behavior — and to live and to do good with a powerful zeal that comes from God.
The master worker, the Creator of all, as an infant beginning a life on earth, chose to visit first the poor shepherds, considered to rank among worthless and expendable pieces of society. There is hope for everyone of us. In a sense, God begins nowhere to bring up somewhere.
God’s message is very simple: Don’t be afraid of life. There is good news today. There is a savior; there is a new way; God has come as an infant and maybe we all need to start over again ourselves.
“Jesus became what we are
That he might make us to be what he is.”
That is Christmas from eternity!
The Christmas from eternity will take us beyond a pandemic or even face a new one.
The Christmas from eternity will take us beyond all the unchristlike characters we will ever meet.
The Christmas from eternity will give direction and continue to breathe into us a spirit of hope, a spirit of light and the spirit of God’s endearing and enduring love.
More than a calendar date or a holiday season, Christmas comes from eternity!