I’ve always found Christmas to be deeply moving in a very personal way, and have never been able to put my finger on why until recently. No liturgical season forces me to reflect quite as much as Christmas does. This year I finally wanted to put my thoughts into words and I realized: Christmas is a Call to Activism.
The individual pieces that make up the Christmas stories in the Bible are deeply moving pieces of scripture that don’t often get the reflection they deserve. We hear them every year, and they are read in an almost storybook way, rather than as a springboard for spiritual growth. I believe that the Nativity forms the very basis of our Catholic Social Teaching for three reasons. First of all, it teaches us that this life is worth living meaningfully. Secondly, it changes the traditional power structure. Thirdly, it teaches us to work quickly and efficiently for social good.
When the Son of God was born here on earth he took on the human form, showing us that this life is important, that we are important, and that those around us are important. The Christmas story forces us to sit and ask: If this existence was inconsequential, why would God come to dwell among us? The Christmas story forces us to take a conscious stock of the world around us.
Christmas drastically upends power structure. It would have been reasonable, if not expected, for the Son of God to be born in a palace. However, in the Nativity we find the most powerful one of all, born in a setting more traditional for the powerless. Shortly after Mary finds out she is with child, we hear her canticle in Luke’s Gospel. We are told that the Lord will throw down rulers from their thrones and lift up the lowly. We are told that he has filled up the hungry and sent the rich away. In short, we are given a glimpse into the upending realities the birth of Christ brings about in our overarching power structures.
Surely Jesus knew that his time with us was limited, and we see him spending his time deeply devoted in service to others--this should have dramatic implications for all of us. If we are to live life like Christ, we must do so working quickly, conscious that our time is limited, and our work is important. This revelation is at the core of the Christmas story and should instruct how we carry His work throughout our lives.
So what does this all mean? I was especially moved by the first reading at Midnight Mass this year: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” For so many around the world, this Holiday season has been especially dark. For the refugee seeking a new life for their family and for those around the world affected by terrorism, nothing could seem less Christmas-like than this season.
Yet, we are reminded that in those dark times, we find light. This Christmas season, we should all renew our commitment to take on the WORK of Christmas rather than just the celebration of it. We should heed the message of the angels who tell us “Do Not Be Afraid” and aim to live as radically as Christ.