Christmas is a happy time for most of us, but it can be a stressful time, too, and that stress can come from more than the hectic decorating, shopping and baking. In fact, the joy of the Christmas season often is tinged with a sadness at the realization that our families and our Christmas gatherings are not as peaceful and joyous as we would like them to be. We are getting ready to celebrate Christmas with family, as spiritual writer Ronald Rolheiser puts it, “but things are far from idyllic. Your family is not the holy family, nor a Hallmark card for that matter. Its hurts, pathologies, and Achilles’ heels lie open not very far below the surface … but you are celebrating Christmas and, underneath it all, there is joy present. A human version of the messianic banquet is taking place and a human family is meeting around Jesus’ birth. That is what church, in this world, perennially looks like. Most of the time, it is so frustrating that we do not see the joy that is, in fact, underneath.”[i]
The joy doesn’t have to stay underneath. As Christians, we Christ-followers and believers in the Incarnation are meant to let God, working though us, unleash that joy.
In the Incarnation, God took on human flesh in Jesus at a time when families and people had flaws, hurts, malfunctions and calamities, just as ours do today. God’s Gift, Jesus, came in the midst of just that situation.
Unlike most gifts, God taking on human flesh and dwelling among us is the real 'gift that goes on giving.' It is the gift that heals all ills, brings peace on earth and joy to the earth’s peoples. It is a gift from God to us, and its gift tag, if it had one, would read, “You, too, are a gift that keeps on giving.”
So wherever we are this Christmas, whatever we see and hear around us, let us, like Jesus, the God Made Man, put our skin in the game. The situation may not always be pretty, however it is what life in this world perennially looks like. Let’s find the “joy that is, in fact, underneath.”[ii] Let’s go to church for the same reason that we continue to have Christmas dinner together as a family—for the pure joy of it.
Christ Has No Body But Yours
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours.
St. Teresa of Avila
[i] Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing