What does Christmas really mean and what are we celebrating?
The term "Advent" isa word adopted from Latin “adventus” meaning "coming or arrival", translating into Greek “parousia”. In the New Testament, thisis the termused for the Second Coming of Christ.
The Child, born of the Virgin Mary, is the “Word” ofGod made flesh. The “Word” who guided Abraham’s heart to step towards the promised land, and who continuedto draw to himself all those who trust in God’s promises... the “Word”who led the Hebrews on the journeyfrom slavery to freedom and who continues to call the enslaved in every age, including our own, to come forth from their prisons.
The Advent atmosphere is rooted in the experience of exile described in the Hebrew Scriptures. The people were far from their homeland. They cried out for a Saviour to deliver them from a great darkness. The Messiah would light their way HOME.
The longing for HOME of the Israelites reminds us of our own inner places of exile. At times we feel we are not our own selves. We hear our inner selves say... This is not me? I have been loving, patient, humble and peaceful...but now, I feel I am no more of my own self...I am in Exile...my exile can be a spiritual or psychological, emotional or social separation which keeps me from being at HOME with my own true self.
God’s promise to the Israelites is the promise for us too.
I will bring you into your own land and resettle you...”Ez 36: 24
During this Advent Let us rediscover the exiled places of our own hearts…“Advent” is a time of homecoming. God is ready to resettle us in our own lands with His compassionate Heart.
Advent is a Season of Seed - the WORD of God planted in the womb of Mary. It was growing in Silence, in Secret, and Mary waited embracing the divine growing within her in Silence. The birth narrative of Jesus was indeed hidden in silence.
Are we allowing Jesus to grow within us in Silence? Are we breaking this silence – using words that destroys the work of God within us and harm the reputation of others? Is the incarnate WORD within us overpowered by love allowing us and the world around to begin to bloom?
Waiting is a Biblical word. The people of God had to wait for so many years for the arrival of Messiah. Do we have the GIFT of waiting? Can we give time to my sister or brother to come back or to return from her own limitations or struggles? Today we are forced to wait… We experience a strange new resonance. Our need for liberation has been underlined by lockdown; our demands for racial, social and climate justice have become more and more urgent as the year has gone on; our longing for a Saviour has been sharpened by the collective fear and greed during this Pandemic.
“Prepare the way”…
We are called forth for an interior preparation to nurture the seed that is the WORD …we are also called exteriorly, socially, to be prepared…How we should be prepared to face a next wave of COVID? We are forced to be prepared and be on guard. John’s message to us flies across the centuries...“turn things right round; simplify your lives, feel the pain of hunger and need…share what you have with the needy even if you have less. Strive for justice… many are making use of the pandemic to gratify their selfish
needs. John’s message is for us to keep pointing at Jesus or else we feel we are drowned by the struggles of pain created by the pandemic.
“Do not be afraid Mary” (Lk 1: 30)
Mary was terrified and covered with a sense of uncertainty with the unexpected message from the Lord at the Annunciation.
The whole global community has been wrapped in fear for a long time – we live in uncertainty, in poverty. The Angel’s message wrapped Mary by the tenderness of God’s love for her...She experienced the power of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed her and led her to say YES to an unknown, uncertain future with courage and to open herself to new possibilities. Her fear transformed her to a courageous woman who nurtured the WORD, became a disciple of the WORD and gave the WORD to all humanity even though it cost her so much in standing at the foot of the Cross.
Like Mary our Mother are we bearers of the WORD...? Witnesses of the WORD...?Ready to sacrifice our own petty desires and longings for the sake of the WORD…?
Fr. Aloysius Pieris SJ presents Christmas as a tale of two Kings. While one King – Jesus by name just out of Mary’s sacred womb became the Prince of Peace, the other– King Herod was plotting the death of the new-born Prince of Peace because of his greed for power. Herod tried his best to maintain his political power while Jesus embraced political powerlessness as His spiritual foundation. Neither the power craving Herod nor the priests joined the Magi, the truth seekers in their search. They were guided by the Light to its Infinite Source: a human bundle of divine peace nestling in the bosom of a peasant woman, a labourer’s wife. (quote)
Let us examine ourselves…Who lives in us and what motivates us in everything we do and say…?Is it Herod who seeks power to dominate, to rule, to maintain a hierarchical way or Jesus who humbled himself, embracing the human nature by being obedient even unto death in order to lift us up.
The mask we wear…
We have been wearing invisible masks throughout our lives. At times we even do not know that we wear a mask, We try to hide our smile, our reality, our true self by warring a mask to protect our ego and selfish desires… we are now tired of wearing our outer masks and we await the day we will be able to show our real faces to one another with humility and openness. Jesus was able reveal God’s face through His Human face. The face of God has been revealed in a human face. It did not appear in an angel. (Pope Francis) Christmas invites us to rediscover our humanness and to consider it as sacred. Cry of the people of today is “give us human hearts” which feels, offers mercy and compassion. Jesus became human but at times we try to reach him forgetting that we are human.
Emmanuel, God with us...This Word offers us reassurance that Creator God knows what we are experiencing and that he lives with us and among us. The Pandemic created such a distance where we have to make attempts to connect with each other to assure our belongingness by making use of technical assistance. We are unable to live a lonely life and we are unable to survive without connectedness. Even when we are physically separated, we look for avenues to be connected. We go through the traumatic pain of separation; even at the death bed we are no more allowed to stay near a loved one. The precious human life is wrapped in a sealed bag and burnt leaving no traces of the lost human being.
The Prophet cries out: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ. (Pope Francis)
Pope Francis says…
What does that Child, born for us of the Virgin Mary, have to tell us? What is the universal message of Christmas? It is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters. This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity. Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty.
For this reason, my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity – fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture; fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another; fraternity among persons of different religions. May we not wait for our neighbours to be good before we do good to them, for the Church to be perfect before we love her, for others to respect us before we serve them.
Let us pray for each other and for our communities that we may embrace this Fraternity; that all our communities be places of fraternal love towards one another and to all whom we serve. May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world; to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.
May the Virgin Mary help us to open the doors of our hearts to Christ, Redeemer of man and of history; may she teach us to be humble, because God looks upon the lowly; may she enable us to grow in understanding the value of prayer, of inner silence, of listening to God’s Word; may she spur us to seek God’s will deeply and sincerely, even when this upsets our plans; may she encourage us while we wait for the Lord, sharing our time and energies with those in need. Mother of God, Virgin of expectation, grant that the God-who-comes will find us ready to receive the abundance of his mercy. May Mary Most Holy, “Woman of the Eucharist” and Virgin of Advent, prepare us all to joyfully welcome Christ’s coming and to celebrate worthily his sacramental presence in the mystery of the Eucharist. (Composed by St. John Paul II)
Tonight, in the beauty of God's love, we also discover our own beauty, for we are beloved of God. In His eyes we are beautiful: not for what we do, but for what we are. (Pope Francis)
I request each Community to take time to share this message reflectively on a Day of Recollection.
Since we are unable to have our Christmas gathering this year and to share our Christmas GIFT, I suggest that we utilize the amount reserved for this purpose for the victims of COVID in our Country.
Please send your suggestions to the Secretariat on Effective Ways of helping the Victims of COVID in Community & Province Level by 15th December 2020.
“Christmas, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”
Sr. Maryanne Perera