A remark during the homily at midnight mass really struck me. The priest reflected how each Christmas is different, not because the Gospel story changes -indeed the story is everlasting – but because we come to Christmas each year a little bit different.
Each year we bring with us the lived experiences of the whole past year. Christmas 2016 was not the same as Christmas 2015…and without being doom and gloom about it, I began to reflect on what we are bringing with us before the manger this year, on how we are all different having lived 2016 as we come ’round to Christmas again. Perhaps a few moments of like reflection would help us to prepare for the New Year.
The priest remarked that this Christmas 2016 is different in one way as a fruit of the Year of Mercy. This is the Christmas Season we are living in the light of the Year of Mercy…how beautiful and timely is the message God gave us through Pope Francis in 2016-mercy! The Lord knew how much we would need it…
And hand in hand with mercy, I see humility as a word that the world needed in 2016 in a renewed way. For if we aren’t humble, how can we receive the ocean of mercy God has for each of us? And what greater source of conversion is there that so effectively opens our own hearts in mercy towards others besides the profound experience of our own smallness, our own humble need for mercy?
On this second day of Christmas, here is a small gift – a Christmas poem on humility and the transforming power of this verse, which contains the spirit of the Incarnation, of Christmas, and of our own salvation: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-13).
To All Adults, at Christmas Time
My dear Adult, ‘tis Christmas time,
you know this well I’m sure – but then,
‘tis what you know compels my rhyme,
Will you chance to be curious again?
Kind Adult, please lend your ear,
your thoughts, your heart to me.
For just a moment, with me turn
now to the nativity.
Let us look with eyes anew
at what we know so well
and tell me Who’s at the center, tell –
do you see what you knew you knew
or what is before you now?
There to the center our gaze is drawn
We look with shepherds, sheep and angels upon
the face of One
the face of a Child, the Christ, the Son.
Between Mother, a virgin, and father, chaste spouse,
a Son as yet is He.
For God has come,
His choice to be born
not in might
but in Humility.
Let us ponder why my kind Adult, and
Let us forget the answer we knew.
Let us now together open our lives
to the message of the Child, anew:
“My dear Adult, you have done well,
you’ve grown up strong and tall.
But if you desire to truly live
You have yet an untaken risk:
Kind Adult, you have yet to fall.
To fall, not from grace
but into it,
by going down, not going up –
by becoming again a Child as I –
by growing down, not growing up.
For though you think to reach Me
by climbing, climbing, climbing up unto,
It is I, the Child who shows the way
by inclining, inclining inclining down to you.
I descend to meet you where you are
and yet you yourself are not there –
I am greeted only by your pretense,
your rationalizations, your fear.
You look for Truth in might and sword
But I come in the poverty of youth.
You think to be humble is to degrade yourself,
to be weak, of little use,
but I tell you: ‘tis your only power-
Humility alone conceives the Truth.
For ‘tis Humility that unbinds the mind
from indulgent intellectualizations,
‘Tis Humility that frees the heart
from fears of its’ real limitations –
and ‘tis Humility alone that opens
the soul to embrace love’s salvation.
Thus in childlike Humility
Man is made free
No pretense needed
No defense to keep up
No need to avoid, repress
or pass the buck.
The Child stands before the Father
As the Child is, no more, no less.
The Child knows in His Love
is all security, pardon
self-knowing and deep rest.
‘Tis only thus, my dear Adult
that you will have strength sufficient
For with the Father, you can do all
without, you must remain deficient.
For the Child is only truly free
within the Father’s love
which holds the Child
and binds the heart to Him above.
If you think
to stay your way
and live grown-up, on your own,
My love urges me yet to say
there is something you must know.
If you look deeply
at the wood that forms my infant Cradle,
you will see with eyes anew
the Cross beneath the stable.
My Cradle and my Cross are one:
As the first leads to the other
yet through the second you must go
to be born unto the other.
But do not fear, dearest Adult of mine,
for where I call you I have gone.
Your suffering will not be in vain;
my love will uphold you all along.
This is the greatest myst’ry
of life and death, together,
of sacrifice and fruitfulness,
the way of grace, forever.
The Father wills it, the Child ascents,
and the Spirit thus reveals:
Heaven’s sweetest slow descent-
as Christmas bells begin to peal,
sounding for each heart reborn
for sin defeated, and vict’ry sealed.
Now, dear one, you’ve heard
what you once thought to know
and now you know anew:
Tis with the coming of the Child,
and your becoming one within
That the winter of our sin does melt,
and the world is warmed
freed to spring forth in joy with flow’ring life –
The miracle of Christmas morn.”
The Child has spoken,
before Him we stand.
Now we must ask,
shall we but bend?
Tis a risk, you say.
Yes – the greatest risk of all
to leave being-on-your-own behind
to bow, incline, to bend to Him, to fall;
To take the leap of death
that ends in being born
as He, a Child
did come to us
that very Christmas morn.
The price so high,
so great the task
and yet something draws me in,
And though fear would have me wait to ask
Love urges me to say, my friend –
Will you but bend?
You see, my Kind Adult,
I have grown up like you
‘tis time that I grew down again.
Let us go together then
and before the Child bend,
to our knees, descend
to willingly become as He, like Him.
I will ascent to descend
that He might raise me
for my heart so yearns to fly…
Will you come along too, my dear friend,
will you but chance to discover why?
Merry Christmas, friends!