NATIVITY OF THE LORD (December 25, 2018)

Christmas is perhaps the event that is best remembered from our childhood. For some, childhood is recent; for others of us, it has been a long time.

We remember our Christmases past. Each of us has different memories of celebration, unique to ourselves. We always went to mass on Christmas morning. I recall never being allowed to look at or open Christmas gifts until after mass. Jesus had to come first since Jesus was the reason for the season. It was painful then, but I got the message.

There are a lot of warm fuzzies connected with our individual recollections of Christmas past. We bring past memories into the present as a computer stores bits and bites and brings then together.

Sharpening our collective memories as Christians is exactly what the Gospel for today celebrates. The Gospel records that the birth of Jesus came at a precise time and at a particular moment in history:

“In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” This time was not “once upon a time” as in a fairy tale or a Santa story might begin, but a moment in real time - an attempt by the first Christians to nail the event in time. This event marks the primary division in history: before Christ and after Christ, “ a.d.” anno domini, in the year of Our Lord. Or, in the new reasoning, “c.e.,” the Common Era.

The birth of Jesus took place in a real place. It did not take place in never-never land or the Land of Oz.

“They [Mary and Joseph] went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem.” A real place where real people lived and died.

This day commemorates a real event. God loves us human beings so much that God gave of himself. He sent one called “Jesus” to show us how to become God-like. To quote Ignatius of Antioch, one of the earliest bishops: “God became man, so that man might become God.”

As we celebrate Christmas, we need to stop and reflect on this reality on a day on which many act as if it were everyone’s birthday, but Jesus. It is well said: “The unreflective life is not worth living.” Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us.” Let’s never forget. Let’s Live Jesus.