December 25, 2011
“Living into the Reality of Advent Today: Christmas - A Call to Presence”
Christmas Day, 2011
Maryanne Confoy RSC
Christmas is here! What does this mean for us, not in terms of gift-giving, but in relation to the deepest desires of our hearts? This time of Advent has been a call to us to revive, to bring to life again what it means to live our Baptismal witness in today's world. Yet it is so hard to keep this awareness in balance with all the other activities, commitments, and images from all aspects of our ever-demanding lives, no matter how well we started our Advent preparations. What difference does Christmas really make? Many non-Christians also ask why the coming of Christ into the world should be celebrated when, two thousand years later, there is still massive poverty, violence, and breakdown in trust throughout the world. We may even be asking these same questions ourselves.
It is important to remember that in Advent, we recall the three comings of Christ in our world. We remember the historical birth of Jesus; we celebrate the various ways in which Christ is present and continues to come to us in and through the community of Christianity; and we believe that Christ will come again at the end of time. This is the essence of the Christmas message: we play an essential role in the advent of God’s Reign now and to come.
The Dawn Christmas Mass invites us to pray in joy, “because the Son of God lives among us.” God is present, but it is up to us to open our eyes to those ways in which we can and do experience God’s loving presence in our own lives. The reading from Isaiah celebrates those who bring good news, peace and happiness to others. In the ways in which we bring these gifts of a caring presence to others in our own lives, the saving power of God in our world comes to new life. The Gospel tells of the shepherds who found Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus in the simplest of places, without any of the trappings of power or glory. They saw a deeper Reality than the actual physical setting and went out and shared their experience with all the people they met.
The four Baptismal calls we have been reflecting on these Advent weeks are reminders that we are not only called, but we are gifted for holiness, for community, for mission and ministry and for growth in Christian maturity. The story of the shepherds finds an echo surely in our own lives. They had little real influence or power to shape the world. They were ordinary people living their lives as genuinely as they could. But they were open to the ‘new’ understanding which was the gift surely of the Holy Spirit of Love in the world. As soon as they received the Good News they spread it in their own community and more widely. Their holiness took shape in their conviction that they had something to share, something to believe in and to live for.
Such a conviction is as important today as it was in the past. Today’s rapidly changing world puts enormous pressure on relationships, both family and friendships. To sustain our care for each other, to allow healing to take place, and to offer genuine acceptance of those who are different from ourselves – in whatever way the difference may take shape – is to exercise Christian mission and ministry in the ordinary “extraordinariness” of our lives.
The mystery of Christ’s presence - “now and not yet” - is expressed powerfully in the reading from Titus which reminds us that even though Christians have failed in so many ways over the centuries, there is still reason to hope. There is a powerful affirmation here: “ When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, God saved us; not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of God’s own faithful love.” (Titus 3: 4-5) To really understand what this means for us, is to open ourselves to take greater risks in loving and caring and reaching out to each other. So often we are crippled, or even paralyzed by our fears of the cost of love – of loving ourselves as well as others - and of the enormous leap that acceptance of the Mystery of God’s love in our lives asks of us. The shepherds took that leap, and their story has been part of the transforming power of the Christian Story for those who can see it.
Today’s Gospel tells us of Mary who “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She pondered the Mystery of Christ in the life of Jesus as she companioned him in his own journey. Hers were the delights and the sufferings shared by every mother. There would have been times when Mary did not understand what was happening to her Son, or what was happening in their changing relationship as Jesus grew into manhood. What questions she would have asked herself as she watched her Son in ministry; what hopes, aches and fears for him would have been in her heart! Yet every time she was asked to move into Mystery she was able to live her yes, her fiat! " Be it done unto me according to your word."
This is the Christmas faithful, hopeful and loving journey to which we are invited, and in which we live our “Yes” to the Mystery of Christ in our present Reality. May your Christmas be blessed and your year truly 'new'!
Comments from Alumni to this week's Reflection:
"Your Advent reflections have provoked much thought and meditation. Thank you, Sister. I hope you will provide similar reflections during Lent." ~ Beverly Penland '70
"Thank you, Sister, for the vision of Mary's love~ so oft neglected in the narrative." ~ Shawn '77
"Thank you, Sister, for your reflections that help us to accommodate the concerns and doubts that we have as we grow in our relationship with Christ." ~ Michele '72
"Reading Sister's comments is uplifting and reasuring of the true meaning of Christmas in our daily lives. Thank You."
"Thank you so much for this wonderful series culmunating in lifting our minds in watchful hope!And to recognize the power of life's daily experiences in Christ Jesus." ~ Muriel Desrosiers '65
"All the reflections are super, Sister. Please keep it up. God Bless." ~ Fr. Sax Sandanam, SJ, '96