Faith Matters: The mystery of Christmas

  • The Rev. Greg Markey, Chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College in Northfield, in Our Mother of Perpetual Help chapel. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • The Chapel at Thomas Aquinas College in Northfield. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

Chaplain, Thomas Aquinas College
Published: 12/27/2019 10:00:20 PM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com)

The mystery of Christmas was made known to us at night. There were shepherds in the field keeping watch in darkness. All was quiet. Without warning, an angel of light appeared and the glory of God shone all around them. Filled with terror, the angel needed to calm them, proclaiming, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

While considering the wonder of it all, the angel told these shepherds the first sign of the newborn Messiah: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (2:12). Littleness. The long-awaited Savior is born in poverty!

Before they could fully comprehend everything that was happening, another glorious sign confirmed the truth of the message: “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest!’” (2:13).

In this revelation, we see the signs and wonders that were common to the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. In those previous times, He appeared under the form of fire, lightening and earthquakes. Yet the most remarkable part of this new revelation is that the God of might has arrived not in splendor, but in humility. God is a baby. He is Emmanuel, God among us. This was the first of many ways in which the Christ was to be “a sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:34).

Every year at this time, the miracle of Christmas reaffirms Christ’s humble invitation for the entire world to approach Him. Does not every baby draw our love and attention? This is how Jesus wants us to be with Him. It does not matter what our background is. It does not matter what we have done, or where we have been. The Christ child has been born and He wants us to draw close to the manger in love, where we will find Mother Mary at His side.

Our world today is filled with loud protests, demands about personal rights, and seemingly irreconcilable differences. Christ gently draws us to Himself without any noise. The angels today are once again urging people from around the world to let their guard down and come close to the Savior who has arrived, poor, cold and in a manger. He is the one who will bring peace.

Again, this mystery of Christmas was first made known to us at night. It was not proclaimed in the light of day, on mountain tops, or from golden palaces. At Christmas, God speaks to us from the darkness. Perhaps today it is the darkness that comes from sin, or the darkness that comes from fear, or the darkness that comes from ignorance. Yet it is precisely those who are in darkness that Jesus wants to invite to Bethlehem: “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). There are also those who find life burdensome, who lack hope. The Baby Jesus came for them as well: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

Visiting the Baby Jesus has the power to change us. We learn from a visit to the manger how to worship Him who will bring us salvation and freedom. This is exactly what happened to the shepherds. The shepherds were filled with wonder and they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:19).

May this Christmas season, when the God of glory became little, be a time of renewed hope and joy for all people, recognizing that God has not forgotten His people.

About Thomas Aquinas College

Thomas Aquinas College is a four-year, Catholic institution that offers a unique academic program in which students read and discuss the Great Books under the light of faith. The College was founded in 1971 in California and opened a second campus, with an initial enrollment of 58 students, on the grounds of the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield this past fall. The original chapel there has been adapted for Catholic worship and has been named in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Mass times are posted on the College’s website: https://thomasaquinas.edu/masstimes




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