Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Yr A, December 25, 2022

It is important to note that the major celebrations of the life of Christ kick off at night. Think of Easter—the greatest feast of the Church, and Christmas—the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The idea that the world was filled with darkness until the light of Christ overcame the darkness is central to Christology. The darkness in question isn’t a material darkness. It is the darkness of sin which strikes even greater terror than the mere absence of the light of the sun. Then the one who is called ‘Sun of Righteousness’ arose and confounded that night. Only He came as a helpless, gentle, dependent, vulnerable, innocent child—the Babe of Bethlehem.

The world would no longer be the same. His coming was like a worldwide volcano, splitting time in two. All who lived before Him were consigned to a category called BC (Before Christ), and those coming after Him live in a time that is His, namely AD (Anno Domino, Year of the Lord). He reigns over all, even those who do not accept Him or mock and deride Him. For, if we say that today is December 25, 2022, we proclaim that it has been two thousand and twenty-two years since He came. Someone may not believe in Him, yet inadvertently acknowledges His presence and dominion in the world.

Often we hear about the commercialization of Christmas or about atheistic groups that rise up to make noise and—as some would say—‘take Christ out of Christmas.’ No other person is so great that his or her birthday brings about such controversy. When we celebrate Washington’s Birthday, no rabble rouser rises up to suggest that their mom’s or dad’s birthday is being forgotten, and in opposition erect their monument beside Washington’s. But Washington, Buddha, Muhammad, or your own mom and dad are only human beings. Jesus is God, who became human. The opposition to Christmas was prophesied by Simeon when he said, “Behold this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. He is a sign to be contradicted, so that the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare” (Lk 2:23f). Opposition to Christ reveals the envy, discontent and rage in many hearts. Opposition to Christ started with Herod, then his own people, then Pilate, then the emperors and continues to our time. We shouldn’t be surprised. For, who has ever had his or her birth prophesied, and upon coming, time changed? Who has ever come into this world with the sole purpose of dying? All of us come to live and we’re sad when someone passes. On the contrary, death was His destiny; and dying, He brought life to all.

God’s coming into the world is the greatest act of humility to which we are called to emulate. The humility in question is not so much about being born in a stable—several children in poor countries are born in worse places. The humility in question is about divinity taking another form—that of humanity. It is a mystery which only shepherds and wise men could grasp. Shepherds—because they knew that they knew nothing. Wise men—because they knew that they didn’t know everything. That explains why you wouldn’t find college professors, congressmen and senators, lawyers, and media pundits around the manger. That would be too incomprehensible for them.

God became man to elevate humanity to the divine status. Five levels of life are distinguished, namely—the chemical, the plant, the animal, the human, and the divine. Christmas is like the chemical taking on the nature of plant, or like the Christmas poinsettias dancing around the altar, or your cat telling you welcome and reciting Shakespeare to you. Christmas is humanity transcending beyond itself to become divine. But before that could happen, God chose to first become man (like man becoming a cat or grass). That is why Christmas invites us to be as humble as God chose to be in Christ. For heaven may be high but the door to it is extremely low. We must stoop to enter therein.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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