Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Year C

Today a Saviour is born for us.

What does that mean?

At the Credo, the profession of faith, we bow profoundly at these words: “By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin and became Man”. The operative word is a profound bow and not a head bow. There are four Masses altogether with different sets of readings between yesterday evening and today. But, what unites these four Masses is, instead of a profound bow, we kneel at the same words.

What does that mean? What implication does this action of kneeling have or why do we have to kneel?

To appreciate why we kneel, we need to look at the way we celebrate Christmas. First of all, Christmas celebrates the fact that Christ came amongst us. According to the lofty Gospel of John, which we will use for the Mass during the Day, that is, this Mass, it says simply: “The Word was made flesh”. This means at Christmas, we celebrate facticity; a fact.

However, facticity does not make sense to some of us. “So what?” one may ask. But, this is not surprising considering that our approach to reality or facticity is via meaning. Thus, the usual take on Christmas is from our perspective. He came, which is a fact, but, more importantly we are concerned about how we can celebrate His coming more meaningfully. A good example of how we can celebrate Christmas more meaningfully can be teased from songs such as “Christmas, isn’t Christmas, till it happens in your heart”. That is not a bad thing simply because we are trying to make Christ known and the only way He is known is through people who call themselves Christians. This may explain why people “denomination hop” or “church hop” because they are discouraged by what they see in a denomination or a church. From our perspective, Christ can only be known when Christians live Christ-like lives. Many homilies are based upon this principle that we are the only Bible that some people will ever read.

Whilst this may be true, the danger of this “human” or “our” perspective is to reduce the facticity of Christ coming to us. That means if we were less Christian, therefore, Christ would be less real.

But, is He? The answer is “no”. Therefore, today we are not concerned by “how” Christian we are to the world, even though that is important.

Whilst we must be concerned about making Christmas more meaningful, that is, more relevant, sometimes, we forget that the facticity or the reality of His coming is so that we can be like Him. Without Him there is no reason for a better world. Changing the world follows from recognising who He is: Emmanuel—God with us.

That is why we bow so profoundly at the creed and later after the homily, we kneel. We celebrate that event which according to St Paul to the Philippians, he says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”.

Why the reality of His birth is so important is illustrated in this story which you may have heard before.

“One raw winter night a farmer heard an irregular thumping sound against his kitchen storm door. He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass. Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds. He turned on the lights and tossed some hay in the corner. But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness, afraid. The man tried various tactics to get them into the barn. He laid down a trail of Jacob’s biscuit crumbs to direct them. He tried circling behind the birds to drive them to the barn. Nothing worked. He, a huge, alien creature, had terrified them; the birds couldn’t comprehend that he actually desired to help. The farmer withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window. As he stared, a thought hit him like lightning from a clear blue sky: If only I could become a bird – one of them – just for a moment. Then I wouldn’t frighten them so. I could show them the way to warmth and safety.

At the same moment, another thought dawned on him. He grasped the reason Jesus was born”.

Christ has come even though many of us are unchristian but precisely many of us remain unchristian simply because we are not converted to the facticity of His coming. This is why every year, we are reminded of this fact: He took our flesh in order that we may become more divine. Try bowing profoundly and you will know what I mean.

At Babel, Man wanted to approach God on his own merit. So, Man built a tower hoping to touch heaven in order to tell God, “God, here in heaven, I stand at par with You”. The same is observed when people say, “Why go for Confession when I am going to sin again”. It is Babel Volume II in this sense: “Look God, I am imperfect. Let me make myself perfect before I come before You in Confession”. Is that not trying to make oneself at par with God? The profound bow and the bending of knee restore the proper relationship between God and man, that is, we are creatures before the Creator.

The posture of the creature before the Creator is important in our quest for a meaningful and better world of peace, justice and harmony. Our desire for a better world does not begin with a grandiose plan. It begins when we embrace or better still, kneel, acknowledging the reality that Christ was born. The Creator has come. He is with us. He is the reason why everything is possible: we endure suffering more patiently and more perfectly and certainly we love the world better and more generously. The path to a better world begins with our knees. So, fall on your knees, oh hear the angels’ voices... O Night Divine. O Night when Christ was born. O Night Divine. O Night O Night divine.