I don’t know where you were Christmas Eve, but I was in a barn feeding horses at 8 o’clock in the morning in 9 degree weather – and that’s right where the Lord wanted me to be.
As many people can say, this year has been full of intense highs and extreme lows. For me, that looked like this: getting engaged to my best friend in the whole world on December 8th and then getting a COVID scare the day before Christmas Eve, where I thought I wouldn’t be able to be with him for our first and only Christmas as an engaged couple. As many a flawed human would, I reacted very poorly to the situation initially. It was able to be resolved (praise God!), but I recognized a pattern. This is the second Christmas in a row that God has allowed something emotionally draining to bring me lower than I ever wanted to be, going into the celebration of His birth.
I promise – this story has a moral.
I think it’s a common trait for many Type A Catholics like myself to fall into the trap of thinking we need to be “perfect” by the end of seasons like Advent and Lent in order to give our absolute best to the Risen Lord and the Christ Child. While it is true that these two seasons are meant to be times of preparation and bettering of ourselves, there is a prideful flaw in this thinking: primarily, that we are poor, weak sinners and will never be able to repay Christ for the greatest gift of Himself!
Now, we go back to the barn: the stable where it all began.
In the frigid 9 degrees Fahrenheit, as I drug bucket after bucket of water because the hose was frozen, stepping through dank hay and the smell in the stalls, I stopped over one of the horses mangers.
Christ was born in this. He WANTED to be born in this.
And in the same way, He wants to be born in each one of our souls at Christmas, no matter how prepared we feel we are.
The entire point of Christmas is that Christ comes to us in the vulnerability of a Child to strengthen us in our weakness!
Even amongst the dirty hay and old sawdust of our souls – no, in fact, because of it – He chooses our hearts over all the perfect palaces of the world to make His Kingdom. He still wants to come into your heart this Christmas, even if you lost your patience over the phone with your Mom, even if you weren’t able to give the ones you love a normal Christmas, even if you allowed COVID to weigh you down.
He still wants you!
A few days ago, a “new star” shone over all the world. It wasn’t the Bethlehem star, but it might as well have been for a world that has been ravaged the way ours has in 2020. On this Christmas, choose to see that star as a sign from Christ to a suffering world – He is still with us: Emmanuel. He sees the brokenness of this world. He hears the cries of the abandoned this Christmas. He sees our disease-laden earth, amidst all the millions of gloriously perfect, untouched, and splendid planets in our galaxies.
And yet, He still comes to us.
Tonight, I am going to read the following words from Isaiah in our local cathedral:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone!
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing!
As they rejoice before you, as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils,
for the yoke that burdened them,
the poll on their shoulders,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed! . . .
For a child is born to us!
A son is given to us!”
He sees the coronavirus. He sees (and holds intimately in His arms) the ones we have lost to it. He sees our inability to be with the ones we love this Christmas. He sees our changed traditions and feels our pain. He sees our brokenness and our inability to carry our crosses well. He sees your anxiety, grief, emotion, and (most of all) the regret that you couldn’t bear it better. He sees it all, but He wants to enter the shut up mangers of our hearts anyway. He asks only one thing: that you humble yourself enough to let Him in – to acknowledge the disheveled hay and all the imperfections – but to let Him in anyway!
Because even in the midst of a global pandemic, a new star of hope is shining over our world.
The God-Man is born!
He has come once again into the darkness and He WILL bring light!
Hosanna in excelsis Deo!