A young woman is lost, sad, and lonely. She happens upon a crèche scene in a public square. She is startled by it. She associates Christmas with happiness, and yet this time around, she is not feeling it.
That can describe a lot of people right now, can’t it?
The scene is from the single “Christmas in George Square,” just released by a young, talented colleague of mine, Madeleine Kearns. It is set in Glasgow, Scotland, her hometown.
In the song and video, a homeless man approaches her and manages to entice her to take a second look at the Christmas story, which she had previously declared merely a story. By the end of the story, she’s not convinced, but gets to the point of prayer, talking to Jesus, as represented in the Nativity scene there: “Sweet and tender Child. Give me hope this Christmas.”
It is easy to imagine that prayer coming from so many hearts this Christmas. At the end of a year marked by sickness and death, we are more aware than ever of our physical vulnerability. But we are also more aware than ever of our need for love and support and encouragement.
One of the mercies of this coronavirus pandemic year is that it has forced a slowdown of certain things. Traveling, office parties, and customary gatherings perhaps this season has meant more time at home, separated from loved ones.
If you’re in this position, there is a treasure there.
Look at the Christ Child. Read Scripture. Enter into the scene. Consider what it means for your life. God is inviting us to let him make this season so much more than its usual trappings. There’s nothing wrong with tinsel and presents, but maybe the lack of everything else is meant to lead to the greatest of all gifts: Jesus himself.
Every year we can tend to go through the motions, but perhaps it’s harder to do that this year. Take each day of the octave of Christmas to reflect on what the Incarnation means for your life: You have a Savior! Everything else you have been searching after or escaping with has not been able to save you. You are not going to save that person in your life who you’d love to help. Jesus is with us and Jesus saves you, me, and every other soul created by God.
If we can believe this, that is more awesome than anything else we can ever know this side of heaven.
That Nativity scene of yours can help. St. Francis de Sales, in a famous 1620 Christmas Eve sermon, put it this way:
“Consider, I beg you, this little newborn Infant in the manger at Bethlehem. Listen to what He says to you. Look at the example He gives you. He has chosen the most bitter, the poorest things imaginable for His birth. O God! whoever remains close to this manger during the Christmas octave will melt with love in seeing this little Infant in so poor a place, weeping and trembling from the cold. Oh, you will see how reverently the glorious Virgin your Mother kept looking at His Heart, all aflame with love, as she wiped the sweet tears which flowed so softly from the gentle eyes of this blessed Babe! How she ran after the sweet fragrance of His virtues!”
One of that music video’s most touching moments is when the young woman is drawn to the Christ Child, quite literally. She feels safe to approach him.
The approachability of Jesus is a reflection of the wisdom of God, who, knowing what we need, gives him to us!
At the close of this agonizing year, consider all which that implies. God wants to shine light brighter than the Bethlehem star into your life. He wants to bring his light to all the dark places in your life. The Divine Physician alone can heal us in the ways that are necessary to enter into his presence in eternal life. What amazing grace! And yet, we go on living for years, but so much of our lives don’t reflect this.
This has to stop this year. For many, the most obvious lesson of 2020 has got to be that we are not going to live forever. The next hour isn’t guaranteed, let alone another Christmas. So, what are we waiting for? Receive this Child, Jesus! Receive him in the areas in your life where he is not, areas where there is resentment or bitter anger, places where the deadly sins hover, hoping to devour goodness and purity of heart.
In that same Christmas Eve sermon, St. Francis de Sales said that the mystery of the Incarnation is “so exalted and so profound that we understand next to nothing about it. All that we do know and understand is very beautiful indeed, but we believe that what we do not comprehend is even more so. Finally, someday in heaven above, we will grasp it fully.”
In “Christmas in George Square,” the homeless man the young woman meets throws his arms in the air and shouts at the sky, exclaiming: “How blessed am I that you’ve come down here to save me. Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”
If only we could have a similar attitude this Christmas! Certainly, the news headlines only add to the somber mood of these days. But our hearts should still leap with joy like John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth at the knowledge that Jesus has come to be with us and save us.
If we do not live Christmas joy amid this valley of pandemic tears, how is anyone going to know God? How is anyone going to ever have the peace that he wants to give them?
Christmas is about a God who took on all the sins of the world so that we could be free for eternity. Give yourself the gift of liberation this Christmas. With Christ, all of that which weighs us down is lifted, because we can see everything with the new eyes of one who loves us like no one else does.