We live in a era where “Merry Christmas” has been replaced more and more by “Happy Holidays”. Yet, in this “most wonderful time of the year” when everyone gets understandably frazzled by all the “holiday” hullabaloo, it is importantfor us to find some quiet moments as we approach Christmas to remember exactly what we are celebrating in December.
It’s not “Merry Present Day” or (heaven forbid!) “Merry Black Friday” where people await not the coming of the Baby Jesus but rather some store’s opening so they can get that $100 Flatscreen TV. It’s not even “Merry Party Day” or “Merry Gratuity Day”.
We are celebrating one of the most profound events in human history: the day God first appeared to us as one of us, as a little baby! Sadly, many of our fellow human beings deny that God became man to redeem us from our sins. They forget in dismissing the notion of His being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary that, as the angel Gabriel told her, “Nothing shall be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).
Sometimes looking at all the wreckage and havoc all around us our sins have caused us, I find myself wondering: why on earth (literally!) would you want to become one of us, Dear Lord? What is there about us that you found so special?
Certainly Satan (also known as Lucifer before his fall) has never had any use for us! Scripture doesn’t give us much to go on about Lucifer’s failed rebellion that caused us to be tainted by Original Sin, and filled with destructive concupiscence, when he seduced Adam and Eve into disobeying God (Gen 3:1-6) and humanity lost Paradise.
We read in the book of Isaiah (Is 14:12-15) and in Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation about his fall from heaven (with Revelation mentioning a third of the angels who fell with him). And our Lord once mentions Satan’s falling like lightning from the sky (Luke 10:18). However, we can only guess as to what caused him to think he, a created creature, however beautiful, could be greater than God.
The celebrated Jesuit priest, exorcist and author Malachi Martin, once speculated that Satan’s rebellion might have been triggered by the thought that he, the most beautiful angel, would have to serve God as a human being, our Lord Jesus Christ, and no way was he, burning with pride, ever going to do that!
While this theory complements humanity as a whole, in showing God’s favor for those he made “a little lower than the angels” (Heb 2:7) it is not to be taken as gospel.
One thing is certain, however: cast down to hell with a third of the angels who followed him in his rebellion, Lucifer, now Satan, burns with an eternal hatred for humanity; and he and his demonic cohort of fallen angels wish to drag as many souls into the misery of hell with him as they can!
Those who think they can dabble in the occult, or that Satanism might be cool or somehow give them power and respect are literally playing with fire if they believe anything coming from the father of lies (John 8:44)!
We are poised between two opposing beings, the Triune God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who wish to bring out the best in us and Satan and his demonic cohorts who wish to bring out the beast in us; between God who, wants to raise us up to heaven and Satan, who wants to drag us down to hell. It’s that simple.
And if it was pride that caused Lucifer’s downfall in the first place, it is our humility that is meant to be a potent weapon against him. Think of the humble example Jesus set in His incarnation. He was born not in the great Second Temple in Jerusalem, or in some other noble setting; not even in an inn, but rather in a cave among animals in Bethlehem. With a manger for a crib!
While meditating on the Nativity we get a glimpse of the heavenly realm as well as the earthly, in the angels who announce to the shepherds our Lord’s birth. However, the key takeaway here is that while God is in charge of all things, he desired to share in our humanity in humility so that we might be able one day to share in His divinity, in heaven!
He wished us, in the example of His birth, life, and death, to follow His maxim that “whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt 23;12)”. So many people think otherwise and make themselves and others miserable through various power trips.
Again, in the midst of all the chaos and confusion we see all around us from our fellow sinners, the Advent and Christmas season is an important time to reflect on how special he thought our humanity could be! Never forget He allowed Himself to be born in a cave and die on a cross for each one of us, for you!
We Catholics, indeed all Christians, are called to imitate Christ. Yet He didn’t come to earth as a parrot, for us to just mouth words heard by others. Many of us, even among the faithful fall into the trap of reciting words and phrases mindlessly at Mass. I’ve often said the Nicene Creed on “auto-pilot” myself, for example.
Christ didn’t come as a pig, for us to roll around and wallow in our own mess in the slime of mortal sin and dissipation with other soiled souls. He didn’t come as bear or a wolf, or some other such predatory creature acting by instinct rather that intellect, born mainly to mate, eat, forage for resources, and fight.
And, in an era where we tend to make Gods and Devils out of political figures he certainly didn’t come down as an elephant (a Republican) or a Donkey (a Democrat) either!
So many among us want to celebrate their “animal instincts”, particularly when it comes to sexual matters. Yet “four legs good two legs bad” (with a hat tip to George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm) was not meant for us. Our Lord didn’t assume human flesh, having created us in His likeness and image for that!
He came as one of us, a human being, to be born and die for us to bring out our goodness, and to reflect His, in humility and service to others while keeping His Commandments.[Yes, there were animals present at His birth, but not for us to imitate!]
Besides the angels announcing our Lord’s Birth to the Shepherds (Lk 2:10-11), the Gospels give us another sublime touch in the Three Kings and their retinue arriving after the Nativity with presents of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for the Christ Child.
While showing us God as the King of both Shepherds and Kings alike, this account (Matt 2:1-12) provides a good thought for meditation: what can I bring the little baby Jesus this Christmas? What would He want from us?
How about helping a neighbor who might be alone, or working in a soup kitchen, or contributing to a clothing drive? How about praying and fasting for your fellow sinners? Visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Taking some time to educate yourself in reading about our faith?
And this, especially: how about giving Christ your sins by confessing them in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) that you may then be able to receive Him in Communion free from any mortal sins? We tend to think of Lent as a time for spiritual housecleaning but it doesn’t hurt to do this during Advent either!
The point is that You, dear Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, present from Eternity before and after assuming a human form as the Word made Flesh (John 1:14), wish us to follow You and imitate You, not to think of ourselves as Gods but as God’s Children, to humbly serve and love others as we would ourselves (Matt 22:39)!
The priests summon You down at Mass and serve in Your place in Confession. We are called to shine Your light and Your truth as part of Your mystical body, your Church.
Help me and everyone reading this, and everyone I pray for, to be not only human (as we often say when trying to explain or excuse something) but fully human in the way You’ve intended us to be(as citizens-in-training for heaven)! Give us your grace to stay close to You in striving to know and do Your Will in all things!
We at Our Catholic Prayers wish you all a Blessed Advent and Christmas season!