Christmas – celebrating the Incarnation – Dec 23
In Trinidad, as in most of the Western hemisphere, Christmas is celebrated by the majority of people of every creed and race. Among the various pre-Christmas activities, many people enjoy looking at Christmas movies. There are several themes that run through these movies – gift- giving, charitable acts, love, forgiveness, family, reconciliation, joy, child-likeness, prayer, sharing, caring, etc. These themes speak volumes about the incarnation in today’s world and so we should pay attention to the messages and try to respond from a faith perspective. The themes can help us to reflect deeply on the meaning of the incarnation.
According to Sr Kathleen Coyle SSC, who lectures in theology in Manila: “Scientific knowledge tells us that the evolutionary journey of the cosmos has culminated in human beings. And in the Incarnation God in Jesus has also become a human being. The human person therefore is the meeting place of heaven and earth. Such contemplative realization of God’s presence to us helps us believe that we are living in the mystery of God. Our existence in the universe opens us up spiritually to the experience of God as the goal of the universe as a whole. Our destinies and the destinies of all peoples and the earth and the forests are wrapped together. We are totally present to each other. We find this great mystical insight in many writers”.
God is love. The relationship of the Trinity is one of love. When Mary asked how “this” (her pregnancy with Jesus) could come about since she was a virgin, she was told by the angel that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. The great love of God filled Mary to such an extent that Jesus was conceived. What we learn from this is that we must practice faith in God by developing a life of openness to God, so God can fill us with God’s spirit of love so we can bring Jesus to our world.
This openness to God can only begin when we commit ourselves to a life of prayer and relationship with the Trinity. Prayer opens our heart to formation and transformation, commonly called conversion. It is in and through prayer that hearts are touched by the love of God and we are moved to conversion.
Many Christmas movies depict people being touched by another person. That person must first be touched by the love of God before he/she can share love to others in such a way that they experience transformation or conversion of heart. Love is not just an emotion. Too many times we limit love to just an emotion and respond to love based on such an emotion. God cannot be limited and we should constantly remind ourselves that God is Love.
Love is the theme that is integral to Christmas and all other themes are responses to that great love incarnated in the hearts of people in the Christian and secular world. As Christians we need to be honest with ourselves. If we find that our responses are not motivated by love then we need to reflect on this. As Christians we ought to be motivated by our encounter with Christ Jesus who entered our humanity.
As Fr Thomas Keating, master of centering prayer, teaches: “When we are sick we cannot cure ourselves but we can take the medication that the doctor prescribes, so too with our spiritual life, we cannot cure our spiritual illnesses but we can take the medication of prayer so the great physician can cure us and make us whole in body, mind and spirit”. Through a life of prayer we will continue to experience the incarnation in our lives and reflect Christ to our world.
God entering our world through the person of Jesus has brought new life to all of creation. Christians who profess belief in Christ Jesus must open themselves to be agents to bring about positive change in our world. When we live the incarnation we honour our brothers and sisters and treat them with love and respect. Christianity is a life of mission and so we must enter fully into the mission, not just at Christmas time but throughout the year.
The Christmas experience must carry over into the rest of the year. This Christmas let us truly commit ourselves to a life of prayer and service to all of creation.
Have a happy and holy Christmas! — Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office