Drawn to God by love
The shops glitter with their decorations and Christmas lights cheer the night. Christmas is in the air. Christmas evokes the sense of the good and a spirit of joy.
While our daily life is driven by the many pressures and demands that close in on us and we grow weary under them all, Christmas offers a time of relief, a feeling of respite.
We put aside the struggles that engage us on a daily basis and celebrate what is good in our lives.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a child and so we are drawn to appreciate afresh the beauty of family and those close relationships that make our life truly human.
We put aside our focus on achievement and productivity, on the drive for success and material advancement, to focus on what really counts in life. Christmas refreshes our inner spirit and encourages us to focus on what really counts in life.
The Christian feast of Christmas is still an essential part of our largely secular culture. While we are conscious that the great Christian feast each year is the commemoration of the Resurrection, Christmas ranks second in importance for us.
In our history it was not long before believers desired to commemorate the birth of Christ.
While the date of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem is unknown, Hippolytus of Rome in the year 204 proposed the twenty-fifth of December as an appropriate date to commemorate the event.
In a sense the actual historical date is not what is important, rather the choice of a date in which the Church could profess its joy in the birth of the Saviour, and the events surrounding his birth as described by St Luke, was what counted. It is the event not the particular day that mattered.
Contemporary culture will draw on the Christian tradition and embrace many of its features, even if it seeks to remove mention of the child Jesus whose birth is commemorated. Nor will it seek to give witness to the significance of God becoming man.
It will embrace the festive spirit of the occasion while eliminating its true content and meaning.
However, the true meaning of Christmas can never be completely eliminated. Something deep in the human heart prompts people to ponder some of the deeper elements that Christmas evokes.
Thus, there is a sense that joy is much more than mere enjoyment, that peace can be an interior disposition of the heart and not just self-satisfaction.
Christmas can also open people to consider spiritual questions, lifting them from preoccupation with material wellbeing alone. Christmas can be a moment of grace for some who have drifted away from living their faith.
Jesus commented that unless we learn to become like little children we will never enter the Kingdom of God (Mt 18:3). The celebration of Christmas draws us in this direction. It evokes the child in us and so opens the door to the things of God.
There is something disarming about gazing upon the crib with its newly born child in the humblest of conditions. We recognise that this is the way God chose to come among us, not with power and dominion but with humility and love.
This is what the stable at Bethlehem reveals. No matter how hard the human heart or how far a person may have drifted from faith in God, at Bethlehem they are drawn to God who has come in silence and humility.
From the stable God reaches out to humanity and draws it to Himself by strings of love.