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Friday, December 23, 2005

Seven Good Reasons to Celebrate Christmas

Br. Xavier Léger, LC

Why is Jesus the “reason for the season"? Celebrating the birth of Jesus makes eminent sense when we contemplate His unique person and situation in history.

His Arrival

1. Because Jesus was the only person with a pre-announced arrival.

When a head of state visits a foreign country, he announces his arrival weeks ahead of time. Otherwise, he would linger at the airport without any official welcome or anybody to receive him.

It is therefore logical that if God sent to the earth His own Son with the mission of saving humanity, He would “pre-announce” His arrival and His message! No one pre-announced Mahomet’s arrival; no one prepared Buddha’s path, nor predicted how Lao-Tse was going to die and why.

But with Christ it was different; His arrival, His message and even some disturbing descriptions of His future death were to be found in the Old Testament and even some Eastern prophecies.

We knew that a great king was going to be born of David’s progeny, that He would be born in Bethlehem, a small village of Judah, that He would reign over all nations and that He would be King forever. We knew that He was going to be the Lamb of God; that is, by the sacrifice of His own person, He would reconcile humanity with God (Is 7:14; 8:8; Mi 5:1; 2 Sm 7:16; Dn 7:13-14; Is 53:1-12).

Of course the prophecies of the Old Testament do not forecast Christ’s coming with mathematical precision, but a careful reading of them clearly indicates their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

2. Because Jesus was the only person directly conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Every civilization has had a tradition of a long-past Golden Age. The Jewish account tells of a fall from a state of happiness through a woman tempting a man. If a woman played such a role in the fall of mankind, should not another play a great role in its restoration (Gn 3:6; Rev 12:1-2)?

In the fullness of time, an angel of light came down from the great throne of light to a virgin, kneeling in prayer, to ask her if she was willing to bear God in her womb. Her answer was that she “knew not man” and, therefore, could not be the mother of the “expected of the nations” (Lk 1:28-38).

There never can be a birth without love. In this, the maiden was right. The begetting of new life requires the fires of love. But besides the human passions that beget life, there is the calm and devouring fire of the Holy Spirit.

And this One, after the girl had given her consent, covered her with His shadow and generated in her the Emmanuel, the “God with us” (Mt 1:23).

The Fiat (“Let it be done to me”) of Mary echoes the Fiat lux (“Let there be light”) of the Creation. But whereas the Fiat lux indicated the creation of the sun that illuminates the planets, the Fiat of Mary announces the birth of a light that will illuminate humanity; the light of God’s Son, made man.

3. Because Jesus is the only man who has not been conceived by a man.

The Old Testament opens with the genesis of the sky and the earth, through the action of a creative God. The New Testament opens with Jesus’ genesis, through the action of a redeeming God (Mt 1:1-16). This genealogy implies that Christ was a “New Man” and not merely one of Adam’s numerous descendants. It is about a new creation of all things.

Matthew describes the generations from Abraham to Jesus through three cycles of fourteen generations each. This genealogy is not exhaustive, however. Fourteen generations are mentioned from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the captivity in Babylon; fourteen again until Jesus.

In some translations of the text, the verb used to express the filiations is “to beget”: for example, “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob”; in other translations, we find “was the father of.” The translation is unimportant.

What stands out is that this monotonous expression is used throughout forty-one generations. But it is omitted when the forty-second generation is reached: “Joseph son of Jacob, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, called the Messiah” (Mt 1:16). Why? Because of the virgin birth of Jesus.

The Marks of Divinity

4. Because Jesus is the only person in the world Who ever had a prehistory.

His prehistory is not to be studied in the primeval slime and jungles, but in the bosom of the Eternal Father. Though He appeared indeed as a “cave man,” born into time in a simple cave stable in Bethlehem, as God His existence was without beginning.

St. John at the beginning of his Gospel relates Jesus’ prehistory as the Son of God:

When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through Him all things came to be; no single thing was created without Him.” (Jn 1:1-3)
Whatever there is in the world is made according to the thought of God. Every bird, every flower, every tree was made according to an idea existing in the Divine Mind. Greek philosophers held that thought was abstract. Now, the thought of God is vested in personality.

During His earthly existence, Jesus will also be God’s Word speaking to mankind. The words of the men disappear once pronounced, but God’s Word is pronounced eternally — and will never cease to be pronounced.

5. Because Jesus is the only man Whose birth has been marked by a star.

Simeon had foretold that the Divine Babe would be a light to the Gentiles (Lk 2:32). The psalmist had foretold that the kings of the East would come to do homage to Emmanuel (Ps 71:10-11). They were already on the march.

Astonished by the sudden apparition of a splendid star in the sky, the kings-astrologers of the Orient had to decipher an enigmatic prophecy that circulated everywhere. This prophecy had been spread about, God knows how, unto the most remote extremities of the earth. It appears, for instance, in the Annals of the Chinese Celestial Empire:
In the 24th year of Tchao-Wang of the dynasty of the Tcheou, on the 8th day of
the 4th month, a light appeared in the southwest, which illumined the king’s
palace. The monarch, struck by its splendor, interrogated the sages. They showed
him books in which this prodigy signified the appearance of the great saint of
the west whose religion was to be introduced into their country.
Following the star, they arrived in Jerusalem and asked Herod where the new king could be found. “We observed the rising of His star, and we have come to pay Him homage” (Mt 2:2).

Awesome Power Clothed in Humble Love

6. Because Jesus is the only king Who was born in a stable.

“He has shown might with His arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty," said Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus (Lk 1:51-53).

The kings of the world are born in palaces, far away from human worries. Jesus was born in the filthiest place in the world: a stable.

He, Who would later be slaughtered by men acting as beasts, was born among beasts.

He, Who would call Himself “the living bread descended from Heaven” was laid in a manger — literally, a place to eat.

Centuries before, the Jews had worshiped the golden calf; and the Greeks, the ass. Men bowed down before them as before God. The ox and the ass were present to make their innocent reparation, bowing down before their God.

God’s wisdom seems madness to the eyes of men. How could this Baby, called to become the greatest King of all times, be born in these conditions of poverty? Could the arrival of God’s Son start with a joke?

7. Because Jesus is the only baby Who made the kings of the world tremble.

If the sky itself undertook to announce Christ’s birth, this means He was to become the most powerful king of all time. He would be a tremendous conqueror, and His kingdom would be even bigger than the Roman Empire.
Two possibilities were offered to the monarchs who knew the prophecies: to win as soon as possible the favors of the new sovereign; or to look for the rival to get rid of Him in the cradle.

The kings of the East chose the first solution and, with God’s help, succeeded. A little later, the king of the Jews, Herod, chose the second option, and put to death all the newborn males of Bethlehem.

Thanks to the indications of Judaism’s great priests, the Magi discovered that the prophecy had to come true in Bethlehem, a farming village tucked far away from the world’s eyes.

The kings went straight to that place. There they found the child Who had been born in a smelly stable, cradled in the arms of His humble maiden mother, under the protection of a lowly carpenter. Though no worldly trappings of royalty surrounded Him, they recognized the King of Kings and did Him homage, spilling their treasure before Him.

  • © Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange

  • Brother Xavier Léger, of the Legionaries of Christ, studies for the priesthood in Rome. This reflection is based on the inspiring reflections of Fulton Sheen in The Life of Christ.

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