I. God intervenes in difficult times
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!"
As we sing this beautiful popular Christmas hymn on this day, we must raise our hearts and minds in praising the Lord for this wonderful feast that we celebrate, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. This feast which is so familiar and so dear to us in this special year of suffering should not dampen our hearts and spirits in rejoicing. Because Jesus came into this world when things were not so good to the Israelites. People lived under Roman rule, social and religious problems made the life of ordinary people difficult and dangerous. Those who were haves had too much and those who had too little survived with minimum things. Perhaps we are living in such precarious conditions today as we celebrate this Christmas.
Our school and university going children have spent this academic year in their own homes. Many of our relatives, friends, and others have lost jobs in the wake of lockdown and pandemic related consequences. From farmers to small scale business people experienced problems of lack of price for their produce and business shutdown. A lot of our near and dear ones lost their lives due to corona and lack of medical facilities during the lockdown. The farmers of our country, religious minorities are living under constant insecurity as laws after laws -farmer laws, CAA, NRC - are being enacted and thus seem to be taking away the very right to live and make life impossible in our own land and our country. Many citizens of conscience of our country including our own Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy of 83 years are spending their life in prisons because they stood for justice, spoke for the marginalized and exploited, and wrote against the unjust policies of the government. Even though the present conditions seem to be bleak to us yet God decided to reveal Himself in His Son to humanity so that we know for certain that God is with us and continue to love us and intervene in our lives boldly and wholeheartedly.
II. God's intervention transforms us into a new life
During this advent season we have prepared ourselves for this feast of Christmas in many ways: spiritually, materially, and emotionally. We have read our Holy Scriptures which gave us a clear idea of what that Advent - coming of our Lord means to us. We also prayed to the Lord that all the problems of this world may be wiped away, all the brokenness may be rectified, and all that lying low may be strengthened, all the crooked ways may be straightened. With the prophet Isaiah, we were confirmed that we are going to get a saviour who is the right one for us. He would intervene in our lives very strongly and make a difference in our unfulfilled lives. We hoped that our lives would be transformed and we would transcend to the divine. With Saint John the Baptist we were assured that God's promise is fulfilled once and for all. As a precursor and light, this great prophet offered everything to us from baptism of the water to the repentance of our sins. Thus we could run into the loving embrace of our God.
This is what happened precisely in the life of young virgin Mary. Her encounter with angel Gabriel transformed her. Angel's greeting, offering peace and affirming God's deep love for her, helps this young Jewish girl to move from fear to freedom. She is the one who musters the courage and trust "Yes" to God. With Mary, we too must say yes to God's interventions in our lives. Only then our lives would transform into a new life. You and I are living in uncertainty and anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness in the current scenario. In such moments of our distress and discouragement, Mary is our model to follow. In other words, saying "Yes" to everything that God invites us to take up.
III. God comes to the ordinary and simple
The Lukan narratives of the birth of Jesus that we have been reading these days emphasize, firstly, that the Good News of the birth of Jesus is announced first to the shepherds and not to others. The angel tells them, "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12). The angel's message takes the shepherds by surprise and without hesitation, they make a quick visit to the manger. In other words, for God, there are no formalities to announce the Good News. Everything is simple and straightforward. Secondly, we see the heartless inn-keeper turning away the pregnant Mary and her helpless husband Joseph. It is not that the young couple had no money to pay to the inn-keeper but the very stubbornness and unwillingness of that man to see the humanity in such a difficult situation made Mary and Joseph seek the place in a cattle shed. God comes to us when we show good and kind human attitudes in our lives.
St John in his gospel gives us that courage saying "All that came to be had life in him, and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower" (Jn 1:4-5). That Word was made flesh and lived among us. Christ continues to live among us in our ordinary and shine his light into the darkness of our world of hatred, stubbornness and inhumanity. At the center of all this is a child who is born in the most difficult and messy circumstances. And yet the purpose is the same that is to save the world. So can I be a Christmas, a light in the darkness to others today?
Almighty and everlasting God, give us the grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, in these times of uncertainties and ambiguities. Give me those eyes of simplicity and compassion of the Shepherds who came to encourage and accompany you and your family. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by your good news that you are my Lord and Shepherd. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
24 December 2020