Christmas Awe… is it completely lost?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 (NLT)
14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)
All along, in pursuing this very notion in all its consequences, we will realize that, underneath the trivialized display of happiness about the God who became a child, there towers one of the great Christian concepts, which in fact leads us to the innermost core of the mystery of Christmas. This consists, after all, in the paradox that God’s glory would not be manifested in the triumphal procession of an emperor whose might conquers the world but in the misery of a Child who, ignored by society’s great, is born in a stable. The helplessness of a child has become the most genuine expression of God’s almighty power, which employs no other force than the quiet might of truth and love. In the unprotected helplessness of a child we were to encounter God’s saving kindness first of all.
I only remember one midnight Christmas mass as a child, but it had a definite impact on me.
This was what Christmas was about. Later years would be filled with trips to my Grandfather’s house, and then my dad’s sister might come to ours. Christmas Day was just my folks, my brother and sister and I. We were filled with awe by the things we recived, cassette tape recorders, and games and a toboggan!
The decorations were there, and the manger scene sitting in the big bay window. or perhaps on the ancient sewing machine that doubled as a desk.
But the awe wasn’t about the greatest gift, the child in the manger. The awe isn’t at the love of God, revealed not to presidents and kings, movie stars and professional athletes. But too simple shepherds, who in awe (and not a little fear) realized the blessing they had seen.
Simeon a few days later would realize that all his life was centered in the moment he held Jesus. For in that moment, not only did Simeon see his own salvation, but the hope for all the world,
THe hope that would bring darkness to an end for gentiles, and show Israel again the glory of God their anscestors saw and counted upon.
Simeon saw this, as did the shepherds in the fields. Yes, it was revealed to them, even as it is to us. They saw it, as Benedict XVI pointed out, in the unprotected helplessness of a child. In the humble manger, in the poverty of Bethelem, not the neighboring riches of Jerusalem.
We need to find a way to be in awe of that moment IMMANUEL – GOD IS WITH US, and the moment years later, when the baby, now a man, would hang on the cross, when IMMANUEL would once again be seen as helpless, and yet all the power of God was there, as the Father poured out every bit of wrath our sin deserves, on Jesus, the one annointed to prove God’s love for us.
We can find the awe again, as we kneel, and receive His helpless Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in the Lord’s Supper. We can find it as we realize that God is still with us, the promise God gave us, as His Spirit was given to us in our Baptism….and as we hear our sins forgiven, and our being given access to the place where awe begins.
In the presence of God.
IMMANUEL! God with us…us!
The Christ, Jesus. The chosen and set aside One who is God’s salvation.
We are in His presence… rejoice in that thought. For this is what should cause the awe… that we need.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 396–397). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.