Part of the beauty of this day is that it brings us back to our childhood.
If we have children of our own, we can re-live in their eyes the wonder of presents mysteriously appearing under a Christmas tree. We can share their joy in a world full of angels, elves and other mystical beings.
If we do not have children of our own, we remember Christmases past when we enjoyed the warmth of our family. We may call to mind the joy we felt in sharing gifts with one another. As we sing carols, we may remember the loved ones who once stood by our side at Christmas Mass who are no longer with us.
This day might also be a time when we remember what it was like to be a child. How we were so quick to believe in angels. How we were filled with wonder at a world charged with mystery, a world in which a child could be born of a virgin. We were so confident that the universe was ruled by a loving Creator and that we were cared for and would always be provided for.
In no small part, Christmas day is a time to remember the wonder and awe which once came so naturally to us. For many of us, the hard realities of life began to rob us of our ability to wonder. Our education sometimes stripped the world of its mysteries, attributing what we thought were miracles to natural causes. As we ventured out into the world to try to make it on our own, we began to see it as a cold, dark place where it was difficult to get along rather than the planet sustained by the love of God. All these realities began to seep into our hearts, callusing them and making it harder for us to believe.
On this day, we celebrate the birth of Jesus who told us that we must become like children if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God. In this morning’s proclamation from the Gospel of Saint John we hear that those who believe in Jesus and accept Him are given the power to become the children of God. Finally, in the same Gospel of Saint John, Jesus tells the Pharisee, Nicodemus, that we must be “born again” or “born from above” if we are to be saved.
Becoming children again - children of God - means allowing our Heavenly Father to renew our sense of wonder. It means opening our eyes again to the mystery of a universe that is sustained in being by a loving Creator who knows each of us by name. It means being quick to believe rather than always being skeptical. It means entrusting our lives and destiny in the hands of our Heavenly Father rather than always having to be in control.
If your heart feels hard and calloused, if you feel as though you have lost the ability to wonder, then Jesus is reaching out to you today. He came to draw us out of the darkness of doubt, skepticism and fear and lead us into the light of a world that is charged with mystery and awe. At the heart of this universe is a God of love whose word is truth and who is waiting for us to let Him be our Father again. All it takes is opening our heart to Him as much as we can, admitting to Him that we do not have all the answers and entrusting to Him our lives and our destiny. Then He will do the rest, renewing our awe at a God who continues to work miracles.
Accepting this child, Jesus, and becoming children of God does not mean closing our eyes to the harsh realities of this world. In fact, the Christmas story is by no means a sugar coated fairy tale. It is the story of a baby born into the poorest of circumstances. A baby who was homeless and became a refugee in a foreign land because King Herod was determined to kill Him. Becoming a child again does not mean making believe there is no darkness. Rather it means believing that light conquers darkness, that love conquers hate and that God will make His salvation known. It means believing that God loves us and that, if we follow His commandments, He will set everything right in ways we cannot begin to fathom.
God created the world and all its wonders simply by the power of His word. He commanded, “Let there be light”, and a blinding light scattered the primordial darkness. He made the world He created to be a place where life and love were abundant, where there was plenty for everyone, where we could see the wonder and goodness of God in every mountain, in every sunrise and in every face. That Word which created the universe took on flesh, became a man, in Jesus Christ, the baby born this day. Whoever sees Him, sees the Father. Whoever welcomes Him, becomes a child of God. And all who love Him already have the eternal life of God burning within them.
On this Christmas morning, let us choose to believe again. Let us allow ourselves to be lost in wonder at a world charged with mystery. Let us surrender ourselves to a God who knows us and loves us and who wants to work miracles in our lives. In our hearts, let us make a home for this child whom the world is so quick to reject, even if it means being rejected ourselves. Most importantly, let us not be afraid to bring Him to others, to let His light shine through us, so that this new creation will spread throughout the land touching more hearts with the joy of salvation as we look forward to that day when Jesus will reveal Himself once and for all.