What will this Christmas be like?
Publish date 20-03-2023
We all long for normality after the Covid restrictions, but there are already signs of the economic and energy crisis, there is a war that has upset the balance of nations and shows no sign of ending. Among us there is so much poverty even in those who were not poor until yesterday. Yet even this year there is a risk that Christmas will be reduced to a distraction. In many environments it has simply become the festival of light, because it unites everyone and we all would like more light in the darkness of our lives. And then, among decorations, parties, greetings and gifts, a general reminder of the goodness that this party has always evoked, doesn't hurt. So Christmas runs the risk of remaining a commercial holiday again this year, with good feelings but unrelated to the Gospel. Even we who have faith are little aware of the profound meaning it has in our lives: "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:17).
Never like this year, we are called to read the authentic signs of Christmas and to live them inwardly, so that the grace of this celebration is renewed in us, starting with us. Meanwhile, if we try to superimpose the difficulties we are experiencing today on the Gospel stories about the birth of Jesus, we must admit that even then times were not easy. Israel was ruled by a bloodthirsty king willing to kill helpless children to maintain his power. A foreign power dictated the law and forced the people of Israel to submit to laws contrary to religion, such as having a census. Even then faith in the one God was contaminated by idolatry and the prophets cried out: "Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is near...". Yet in that dark time of over 2000 years ago, the Word of God became flesh in Mary's womb: the Son of God awaited by Israel, became incarnate, became Man and a new history started again. “Here is the sign. Elizabeth, already advanced in years, will have a son..." the Angel says to Mary to confirm that the time for salvation has come.
What does this word say to our faith? What changes in our lives recognizing that we live in the time of fullness? The sign of Christmas invites us to lift our gaze to restart hope in us and, through us, in desperate, burdened, resigned people who no longer find the meaning of life. Are we aware of it? It takes the humble heart of Mary, of Joseph, of Elizabeth, of Simeon and Anna, of the magi who came from the East, to recognize the Savior and await his return! Who knows if the experiences of recent years have definitively bent our claim to self-sufficiency! Who knows if, amid so much effort and disappointment, we managed to keep alive the expectation of a greater Good! Let's look at the gospel again. In Bethlehem only the shepherds saw, heard and recognized the signs in the darkness of that night: the light of the star, the presence of the angels, their announcement «Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men loved by the Lord ». They were shepherds, the lowest in Israel's social ladder, the most marginalized, the excluded. But they weren't ugly, they recognized that they needed God, there was room for waiting in them. They cared about those who were poor like them and they knew how to read the sign.
Poverty is an indispensable condition for receiving the sign of Christmas. The poor who recognize the Savior lack everything, but they are not withdrawn into resignation. Their hearts are free from everything because they wait for God to fill their poverty, they are full of hope in tribulations, always open to receive a greater gift that only God can bring about. It would be nice if the shepherds' field in Bethlehem was crowded this year, that we were all there, that so many people joined them! People who in the precariousness of life have been able to recognize that God is always on our side. People poorer in goods but more capable of sharing with the poorest. People who have learned to wait for God's timing and are therefore available to receive the authentic and inner sign of Christmas.
NP Dicembre 2022