TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, as you know, is actually countless women who are protesting abusive behavior from men in their lives, a situation that society all over the world has ignored for centuries. It may be now that all they are asking, especially of us men, in this painful outcry is to negotiate toward the building of a fairer world for all.
The Bible is the story of human beings not knowing how to live together in mutual charity and good will. And this is so because we are not born programmed to live in unselfish love — quite the opposite, we are born caring only about ourselves. As humans we have to develop into the fullness of our nature, especially toward compassionate care of others.
You and I have the good fortune to live at a time in history when humanity’s path has already been radically changed by a happening called the Christ Event – the birth, the life, the teachings & example, the murder & the resurrection of a man from Nazareth by the name of Jesus. We don’t have to wonder how to be good human beings: he has given us the pattern and also the promise of his abiding presence every step, every minute of the way.
Poets and artists and musicians are far better than philosophers and historians and theologians at expressing our experiences with God, the Creative Spirit whom Jesus, above all, reveals to us. We find in those ancient words, not always fact, but always truth. That is why the story of Jesus, especially the part having to do with his birth, is preserved for us chiefly through their art and their craft. We listen with undivided attention to those familiar accounts, appreciating both the underlying message they carry and also their exquisite, often fanciful, literary beauty.
There were protesters present at Jesus’ birth, the story-tellers said. They were the shepherds, poorer than the animals they herded. Somehow they had learned that what was happening in Bethlehem was very, very important: that because of this birth life could get much better for them and for their children and grandchildren.
The child born that night dedicated his life and death to that cause: freedom for all human beings, God’s children; an end to slavery of all kinds; compassionate care of the poor and the needy; a just and equitable sharing of the abundant goods of the earth; and –- empowering it all — a firm belief in the presence and the love of the One he called Father.
It’s less than 20 years since we emerged from the bloodiest century the world has ever known, and we are only too aware that the Savior’s work is not yet complete. But once again there is good news: It has been documented only recently that never before in human history have there been, as there are at this very moment, so many groups that exist for the sole purpose of helping the downtrodden.
Christmas is not an isolated event of 2000 years ago; it is a present and on-going reality in us now.
You know from your own experience that the Christ you pray to is not “up there” or “out there,” but in you. A priest friend of mine has written that what this means is a secret so profound that we spend our lives either missing it or discovering it.
What I would give you for Christmas, if it were in my power to do so, would be a deeper realization that the good things you are doing, the love that you give to others in so many ways, are sure signs that Jesus lives and acts in and through you — and that Christmas, therefore, is really all the time!