Thursday, December 15, 2011

“I bring you good tidings of great joy..."

Christians always live in the season of advent because they live in expectation of an encounter with the Lord. Christians expect, beyond biological death, a personal and definitive encounter with God. Yet even more, they live in the expectation of permanent, daily and surprising encounters with his presence, which the Lord reveals in a thousand ways and in the most diverse circumstances. In joy, in sadness, through an accomplishment or a failure, in health or in sickness, with a friend, in personal prayer, in worship, with a book, a counsel, in all that we are and have… we are able to discover God’s presence in our life. We also expect and prepare ourselves every year for an encounter with the Lord through the liturgical season of advent which in turn prepares us for the liturgical season of the nativity: Three advents that are summarized in a unique advent: that of the entire life of the Christian Community awaiting the soon-coming Lord, who approaches us, makes himself available, is with us… a presence whose timing we cannot determine, for which Jesus urges us in the gospel to be alert, awake, prepared…

Christmas, then, is an encounter with God who, in the birth and life of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, wants to be with humans, with us, throughout the year and always… Precisely Emanuel, which means God with us, is the name that the Old Testament prophets gave to the Messiah, the one who would finally restore in the world God’s reign.

For believers in Christ, for those of us who recognize in the person of the “infant wrapped in swaddling clothes… in a manger” (Lk 2,12) the long-expected One, the Son of God, the one who was to “come into the world” (Jn 6,14), his birth is remembered every year at Christmas. This constitutes the best, the greatest news that has ever been heard or known in human history: “Fear not for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2,10-11).

That good news that was first given to some shepherds is still good news for all men and women of good will, for everyone. This is because all human beings seek happiness, that is, they are seeking salvation, eternal life, a full and abundant life: precisely the kind of life that Jesus lives and teaches us to live.

This is so in spite of the social structures of sin and evil that generate inequity and unfairness. Although there are personal and social sins that vilify human togetherness and sadden our hearts, although there are walls, selfishness, anger, rancor, envy and divisions of all kinds, although hunger abounds, as well as loneliness and suffering, although efforts are continually made and in a thousand ways to conclude with peace, agreement and life, although there are desperate and hopeless people who wander without meaning… Christmas is the festivity of those who “hope against hope” (Rom 4,18) because God is with us and because all the life, deeds and words of Jesus encourage us and involve us in the construction of a present and a future where right conduct causes peace to reign, peace that comes through forgiveness, life that springs out of love, respect and solidarity because —taught now by Jesus himself— we come to know that all of us are brothers and sisters, children of the same Father.

This good news is the foundation of the joy of believers always, but in a special way, at Christmas. Thus, there are those of us that rejoice in this time of the Nativity for all that the birth of Jesus means to us: God’s plan of salvation for us through his Son. But there are also those who are happy without knowing or celebrating the true sense of the Nativity.

During the Christmas season we make more purchases, give more gifts, we share, we travel, we relax, we send messages, we reunite with loved ones, we adorn our homes and streets, make more music and hang more lights… How great it would be of all these social manifestations had as their background joy over the birth of Christ; otherwise, everything is reduced to the profane and pagan manifestation of a consuming and materialistic society in which the meaning of this season is diluted and distorted; like an empty purse the season winds up empty, without heart.

Yet, thanks to Christmas, hope does not die; it comes to life again every year, and should be born every day. Against all our errors and selfishness, against all evil and pessimism, at Christmas every year, always, even stubbornly, Hope is born, our Hope: our Lord Jesus Christ.

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