Anabelle and I spent many joyous Christmases in this house. Christmas is a time for joy for many people. Gift-giving, often lavish and extravagant, helps to make the season bright. Yet, the first Christmas was very simple and literally poor. It was about women (Mary, Elizabeth), poor carpenters and shepherds, no room at the inn, manger for a crib – all considered austere and at the outer fringes of Jewish society. But it was a joyous occasion celebrated by angels and wise men (not kings) from afar.
For all the joys of Christmas, most of my Christmases have always been tinged with a bit of sadness. But this year’s is turning out to be the saddest one yet. Yesterday, I saw the movie The Two Popes twice and in a very surprising way, it gave some perspective.
Christmas is the celebration of life. It is about the birth of Child. Life is the most precious gift we have received and we often take this fact for granted. But being alive alone should already be a boundless source of joy. And the child that is born today is a special child – he is God become human. God with us. He gave us life and he has come to assure us that he is always with us. We are not alone.
Here is the dramatic part. Pope Benedict in the movie pours out his heart how in his youth he was clear about what God wanted of his. And he was very assiduous and dedicated in following what he believed was God’s will. Now in his old age, there is only darkness and confusion. The faith he had in God is severely tested by the challenges coming his way. He laments, “I believe in God. I pray to him. Silence!”
Yet, there are simple joys in our daily lives. We can cling to the assurance that God is indeed with us. And we come to realize this when, in remembering and considering our life, things do work themselves out in the end. And Cardinal Bergoglio responds by telling his life story: how he was banished from his high position to serve in a remote rural parish, how in that desolation of his banishments he saw himself being molded and transformed by the abiding presence of God.
It is may be sad Christmas now. I remember and am grateful for the many joyous Christmases in my life. The Lord might seem silent and absent now. But I put my trust in his plan for me and trust the journey. His abiding presence will eventually bring me to my destination.