Wonder to Worship – The Real Spirit of Christmas

Christmas, the very word conjures up images of a nativity crib, wonderfully lit Christmas tree, stockings hanging with gifts, cakes and cookies and an enthralling atmosphere of red, gold and green. In a world, where Christmas is manifested with grandeur and glittery, consumerism and commercialism, limited to mere images and extravaganza, what is the essence of Christmas in our life? Does the Real Spirit of Christmas reign in our heart or is it lost in the midst of the busyness of the world around us and our individual lives? We need to recall that the child Jesus entered a busy world in the silence of the night. The inaugural Christmas was an experience of long awaiting and great awakening. This Christmas, let us detour from the road of busyness and worldly celebrations and take the road less travelled by, discovering the magic of the Real Spirit of Christmas in our hearts.

The Real Spirit of Christmas begins with wonder

It all happened one silent night, no place in the inn but there was place amongst the beast. Holy infant, tender and mild entered His own creation; lay in swaddling clothes not in a cradle but in a manger. His coming comforted the weary and rattled the comfortable. King Herod was looking out for him but could not find Him, scribes knew where He was to be born but did not visit Him, the wise men set out on a journey by starlight, the heavens reverberated the proclamation of the angels, the shepherds hastened to worship Him, Joseph stood in reverent silence and Mary pondered all in her heart. This is the story of Christmas that we have all grown up with, makes us wonder when it resonates in our hearts, mesmerizes us whenever we gather around the crib. The Glory of God, the nostalgic magic of Christmas explodes before us in all wonder as a fairy tale, easy to comprehend, difficult to believe. The pinnacle of Christmas event is that God has pitched His Tabernacle amongst us; He is Emmanuel, God with us. The Incarnation is God’s supreme outpouring of chaste love made perceptible in the child Jesus (John 3:16). Let us pass this Christmas in wonder and joy, contemplating with awe the greatest Mystery, “Word made flesh”.

The Real Spirit of Christmas continues with wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”(Proverbs 9:1). Wisdom begins in wonder. Ancient thinkers sagely observed three ways towards wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. This Christmas, let us traverse on the three roads towards wisdom. Let us reflect on the Christmas story, let us emulate the lives of the people gathered around the manger and let us experience the Child Jesus in our heart. It is better, much better, to have wisdom than gold and silver (Proverbs 16:16)

Reflection

One Man was born, not to live but to die. He entered our world on Christmas Day as a sign of beauty amongst beasts, as food in a manger, as a symbol of purity and holiness in a filthy barn, with the shadow of the cross glooming over his gifts. The babe stripped his Heavenly body and became flesh, Incarnate and pitched His tent amongst us not with pomp and trumpet blast but in all silence and humility to reveal the humongous love of His Heavenly Father. The Christmas babe teaches us that we are all born to break ourselves and offer our lives to others. We are born to consecrate our lives to the Lord, holy and pure. We can all find the Baby Jesus if we make some room in our (inn)er heart, if we strive to search Him in our day-to-day ordinary events, striving to find Him in all things, in the people around us. Truly, Divinity is found where least expected.

Imitation

One cannot forget the image of Joseph and Mary with the Child Jesus, deeply sketched in our minds. The evangelist Matthew portrays Joseph as a man of obedience and silence. Joseph does not utter a single word but only obeys the will of the Lord as pronounced by the angel. The evangelist Luke portrays Mary as a woman full of grace, submissive to the will of God. Luke sketches her as a woman of substance personifying true discipleship traits and treasuring everything in her heart. Her true treasure lay in her heart upon which she pondered always. We are called to imitate the lives of Joseph and Mary, their traits of silence and reflection. We are invited to ponder upon the Word of God in silence and treasure it in our heart. We, too like Mary, are called to make the Word flesh (alive) in our lives. Silence should not demonstrate an empty interior but rather the fullness of faith that we carry in our hearts. It is the very essence to listen to the Voice of God and ponder it deep down in our hearts. This Christmas, let us cultivate this intense interior silence so as to receive the Baby Jesus in our life.

The simple act of the shepherds is the holiest and highest form of response to the Good News. Their response was radical and active.  They made haste towards Bethlehem to experience the Child Jesus. How do we respond to God’s Word? Do we make haste to taste and see that the Lord is good?
 “Wise men still seek Him”. The wise men come to worship, just as the shepherds. That’s why they are wise; not because they know the means, the way, but because they know the end; not because they lift their heads to the stars but because they bow their knees to the Baby. Wisdom is not the pride of cleverness in knowledge, but the humility of holiness. The wise men open their treasures and present their gifts. Can we purify our dreams and desires to finest gold? Can we raise our prayers and sacrifice ourselves as fragrant frankincense? Can we lay our trials and tribulations, sorrow and pain to rest with myrrh? The greatest gift is not found in the store or under the tree but in our heart.  Can we imitate the wise men and embark on the journey of life like a pilgrim seeking God and when found, worship Him.

Experience

Christmas personifies God’s unfathomable love that desires to suffer and is willing to endure pain. Bethlehem is a prelude to Jerusalem; the House of Bread points out to the Bread of Life on the cross. We are privileged to experience this Baby Jesus in our love and sufferings, identify our trials and sufferings in his wounds and accept our rejection in His. It is only in our bitter grief, our times of trials and sufferings that we truly encounter Christ and find a meaning in our life. Let us be drawn to His light which dispels all darkness from our lives and share a personal relationship with Him. Let us bow down in humility and adore the baby Jesus.

The Real Spirit of Christmas is experienced in Real Worship

May the Christmas wonder and wisdom (reflection, imitation and experience) lead us into Real worship of the Divine. This Christmas, let us resolve to celebrate the birth of our Lord in a fitting manner. It is the world’s greatest irony that we celebrate the Passion and death of Christ during the Christmas (Birthday of Jesus) Eucharistic celebration. May the Christmas Liturgy assist us in comprehending the profound mysteries that we celebrate on Christmas day? The Blessed Sacrament is an extension of Christmas as Christ is continuously present with us on earth now. May the season of Christmas, which contains the elixir of immortality at its very kernel, remind us that the Babe in the Manger is ever present on our altars in the Holy Eucharist. We can participate in that divine life of sanctifying grace. This Christmas, let us make time, be aware and still to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary, yet is so wondrously present. Let us celebrate the Christmas liturgy in silent awe and wonder, make haste to experience Him, like wise men seek him, offer Him the greatest gift of our self and bow down and Worship Him in spirit and truth, the hallmark of true and real worship and adoration.

Merry Christmas

May the journey from wonder to wisdom to worship enkindle the Real Spirit of Christmas within us. May it never cease in our lives as we pledge to honour Christmas in our hearts and keep it throughout the year. This is the Real Spirit of Christmas that we grow with Christ throughout the year, journey with Him from Bethlehem to Calvary. I pray that we all experience a Christ-Centered and a Spirit-Filled Merry Christmas.

Kindly keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,

Steven Pais

Contributed to “the Examiner” dt December 17, 2011