CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 April 2018

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And so it was Christmas

And so it is Christmas. A child is born. We know the story, or so we think. But if the men who wrote the gospels knew the story, they did not tell us much about it.
 
Mark does not mention it, John presents us with a lofty theological poem, and Luke and Matthew toss it in as an incidental amidst much detail about the Annunciation, visits to cousins, meeting with the Magi, shepherds getting the message, angels in the sky and Joseph’s quandary over his pregnant wife.
 
Somewhere in the midst of all this a child is being born.
 
But then there are important details that we tend to overlook. Matthew begins his story with the ancestry.com of Jesus, a long list of scoundrels representing humanity at its worst, but interspersed with characters representing humanity at its best; like Moses, the great leader; and Elijah, the great speaker of the truth.
 
Maybe we overlook this detail because it is full of names that are hard to pronounce, or because it goes on for too long to hold our attention or it mentions too many characters whose stories we are not familiar with, robbing it of interest.
 
But maybe it is more comfortable to ignore it as it looks a lot like our Church today. We too can boast scoundrels capable of competing with the worst of those of yesteryear, but to our credit, we can also present a few holy souls that compete with the best of all time. Perhaps we do not feel comfortable with either group.
 
The prophets of yesteryear were never at the top of the popularity polls in much the same way as are those of today are not. They disturb our peace and leave us groping for the foothold upon which we have set our lives, forcing us out of our comfort zones.
 
But maybe even this is not the worst of it. From the events that surround the birth of the saviour, we know that the places in which we choose to celebrate Christmas are not the ones that God chose for his son to be born on this earth.
 
There is a vast gap between the smelly, freezing poverty of the stable in Bethlehem and our artistically, pristine churches or dinner tables. Pope Francis knows where Christmas should be celebrated, but while much loved by many, he is not the most popular prophet in many sectors of society either.
 
But not all news is bad. There is much to like about Christmas. There is lots to celebrate. God became man and entered this world in the same way we did. It is a beautiful day for children and it is a day to remember the message of the gospel that it is the children who give witness to the divine wisdom.
 
It is the simplicity of the child that Jesus bade us learn from, the unquestioning trust and belief, a day to celebrate the witness of children that we need for our sanctification.
 
When the trimmings are stripped away, there is a miracle of grace shining in the darkness of a tough world, which radiates from the face of a tiny baby who reminds us that not all is lost.
 
And so it is Christmas and a blessed celebration to you all. JiM