Undeniably there is magic in the air tonight. Even those who would have reasons to be pensive and worn out find a new spiritual energy inside that prompts them to rise above their worries and troubles. This magic atmosphere must be God-sent because it is different from any other type of which we can avail ourselves on our own. After all, we are here to thank the Lord God for sending his only Son Jesus as a baby to be among us to do for us what we are incapable of doing on our own: to save ourselves from the dark side of our human nature.
Tonight this is, par excellence, the place of our encounter with God made flesh. It is a place where peace can be found and joy can be felt for a prolonged time. We have left outside nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, cities like Aleppo and Mosul, and a thousand other obscure places where the dark side of human nature has shown its frightening cruelty.
It is good for us to be in here for an hour or so. Yes, we need a quiet corner in which to take in and contemplate this good news of great joy that will be for all people, without running the risk of it being shattered by an unforeseeable evil.
The irrepressible joy that invades us comes from the Child that God himself has given us. His name is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. Frankly, we fail to grasp the significance of these mysterious names given him, but we sense that they fit him adequately and that is good for our souls.
The prophet Isaiah (9:1-6) reveals to us that this Child, awaited with unspeakable and patient longing by countless generations and now surrounded by throngs of angels, comes from the zeal of the Lord of hosts. We never thought that it took the zeal of God himself to give us his only Son in the form of a newborn baby. Zeal means passion; zeal reveals the fire of love burning within our Lord’s heart; zeal conjures up thoughts of ardor and eagerness. This is the fire of love, the zeal that drove our God to come among us in the most disarming fashion and share in our pain and hardships.
The passage from the Gospel of Luke (2:1-14) is among the most familiar ones lists a few of these hardships as it bares all the pain therein. Imagine the discomfort of Mary, in her ninth month, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Consider the anguish of Joseph looking, powerlessly, at her uneasiness. Add the straits of having to settle for a stable in which to give birth to the Son of God and to have to place him in the feeding trough of oxen and donkeys rather than in a real crib. By contemplating this poverty and want embraced by our God, we realize that the joy that we feel inside tonight flows from the unspoken realization that our God in human flesh, by choice, feels right at home, in any of our poverties and wants. The proof is in the multitude of heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Tonight, we realize that the world can offer us several ways of relaxing, unwinding, having fun and finding a degree of joy, but we have learned for certain that the brand of joy that the Lord offers us is the only brand that can withstand a life of hardships, poverty and want. We notice this brand of joy in the shepherds who lived by necessity a life of poverty, want and hardships. We notice it in people who are lowly and humble and who are looked down upon by those who are rich of wealth and/or of themselves.
Thus, tonight we choose to embrace our simple way of living marked by hard work, industriousness and sincere caring for each other. Thus, tonight we accept with courage to be tested now and then by hardships, poverty and want because we now know that our God is truly consumed by his zeal for us.
He is passionate about us and he alone can fill our hearts with the brand of joy that we cannot find anywhere else. And let this be the brand of joy that can make our Christmas merry indeed.