The Nativity of the Lord

Lectionary: 16

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God. 
He was in the beginning with God. 

In recent years certain sly voices like to point out that this isn't really Jesus' birthday. They inform us that, if the shepherds were watching their flocks in the fields "by night" it was probably closer to April, because ewes have their lambs in the springtime. The pens where the sheep usually slept were too crowded and dangerous for lambing. 

They'll be met with the scholarly reply that Jesus is the Lamb of God and that may be why Saint Luke placed the birth of Jesus in the springtime; and the Evangelist probably didn't know and wasn't interested in his actual birthday. 

That being the case, we shouldn't sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus because our birthdays are always celebrated on the actual anniversary. A secular society, for reasons of its own, has to keep track of precise dates and ages. 

While these skeptical voices are discussing these biblical nuances we might inform them there is no Santa Claus either. Alas.

Christmas is our celebration of the great and beautiful mystery of Incarnation. We must celebrate the Yuletide because God was truly born of the Virgin Mary and lived like any other man in our complicated, messy, unpredictable, dangerous world where nothing is perfectly clear -- not even a man's birthday. 

Most of us, even the most cynical, keep track of our Christmases. We remember where we were last Christmas and the year before that. Not every Christmas has a particular memory but the memorable ones remain indelibly. Baby's first Christmas is joyous, but sad ones follow the death of a loved one. 

As I ask myself what sets a Christian apart from other people, I think of Christmas. We live during that "moment" between Jesus's Ascension and his Return. We mark time from when he was born, which has been approximated close enough for our purposes; till when he returns, which no one can say. Christmas marks the passing of another Year of our Lord. 

Had there been no Incarnation, the gospel would be no more than a collection of moral teachings, like Thomas Jefferson's Bible. Time and history would have no beginning, no end and no meaning. The Infinity of Space would be scrutinized by forlorn astronomers who search the sky for meaning, for an astrological sign or a Hale-Bopp comet with a spaceship in tow.
Christmas, Easter, their attendant seasons and octaves, and the innumerable memorials of saints' feast days remind the practicing Christian that we live in God's time. It is an opportune time when we can work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Because it is meaningful it cannot last forever. As Saint Francis said, "While we have time, let us do good." 

Christmas teaches us to eagerly await that day when there will be no more Christmas. On that Day the Lord will return in Glory to judge the nations with justice and mercy -- an order we can't even imagine -- and to establish forever his peaceful communion. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.