Christmas Story for Grownups
by Sister Ruth Droege, Dec. 16, 2018
During this advent season and Christmas time, I have to admit that I struggled against feeling like Scrooge, not only because of the fall which fractured my shoulder but also because of the reports of violence and war on the news. Peace on earth and good will to men seemed a distant hope.
During this advent season and Christmas time, I have to admit that I struggled against feeling like Scrooge, not only because of the fall which fractured my shoulder but also because of the reports of violence and war on the news. Peace on earth and good will to men seemed a distant hope. Pondering all of this, I wrote the homily I will share with you this morning.
The days of the Christmas season are an enchanted time of the year. A white bearded gentleman dressed in red oversees his workshop where elves toil unceasingly to fulfill the wishes of humans on that magical night of December 24th. A sleigh led by a reindeer with a red nose glides through the snow laden sky. O to have the eyes and heart of a child to behold these wonders.
We grownups support and encourage the childhood dreams. We write letters to Santa for the children telling in great detail their desires for gifts and leave cookies and milk for that jolly old man who, despite his girth, makes his way down the chimney into our homes. We sadly know that the naivete of childhood will wake up to real life all too soon.
And yet, to be honest, don’t we grownups have dreams and expectations about life. Looking into our future, don’t we imagine how this or that will make us happy and fulfilled? More often than not our achievements fall short of our desires. In this life, is our hunger for wholeness, for completeness, to remain frustrated forever?
Teilhard de Chardin, who served as a stretcher bearer for the French army during WWI, wrote to his cousin, Marguerite. on the 24th of December, 1915, “I must tell myself, and I think that I will come to feel it, that no Christmas night will ever have meant more to me than this one I am about to spend on the straw this evening by the side of men…” MM p. 85.
The Incarnation was a pivot about which the whole of Teihard’s spirituality revolved. On that Christmas Eve, perhaps, the words from a well known Christmas carol were recalled:
Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down sweet head.
The stars in the sky
Looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay.
Teilhard called the historical Incarnation, the sanctification of all matter in the universe and the promise of its eventual transfiguration, the universe becoming Christ. Following John’s gospel, “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God…through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be.”, he understood the universal presence of Christ in creation from the beginning of time. The Incarnation solidified Christ’s cosmic connection with all of creation, a cosmic reality through the flesh of Christ, a Cosmogenisis. Teilhard, in his reading of St. Pau’s letters to the Ephesians and Romans, interprets Paul to literally mean that we are all members of Christ’s Body and members of one another, related by the flesh, in Him we live and move and have our being.
There are myths which tell of the love of a god for a human motivating him or her to give up the prerogative of immortality in order to be the companion of the human in earthly life and to suffer death. In Lord of the Rings, for example, Arwen, daughter of Elrond, lord of Rivendel, chooses to marry Aragorn who is the descendent of Isildur and rightful heir to the thrones of Andor and Gondor.The Incarnation is no myth; it is a reality of faith. The reality of God’s love for the world.
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate a true cosmic liturgy. Especially on the 24ttth and 25th of December we might think of it as Christ’s Mass. The Eucharist is a Sacrament which effects what it signifies. By the words of consecration, this is my body, this is my blood, the bread, the work of human hands, and the wine of human suffering become the body and blood of Christ offered to God in praise, adoration and thanksgiving, restoring, not human kind alone but the whole of the cosmos, to the eventual fullness of being in Christ at the end of time.
But wait, there is more. The Body of Christ both is and is becoming in earthly time, a Christogenesis. We are participators, co creators as it were, in this endeavor. This is something different from the Olympics model of “higher, stronger, faster”. When our action is motivated by grace, it builds up a true Body, that of Christ , who wished to be completed through each one of us. Teilhard writes in The Divine Milieu, “each one of our works, by its more or less direct impact it has on the spiritual world, helps to make Christ perfect in his totality.” And, “God is, in a sense, at the point of my pen, my pick, my paint brush, my needle – and my heart and my thought.” Whatever setbacks and diminishments we suffer carry on the healing, restoring work of Christ. Living a life of faith and trust in Christ gives our lives a meaning and purpose that is everlasting. In a real sense, we birth Christ.
Grownup’s desire for lasting happiness, for wholeness, does come true. A thrill of hope echoes through the world on Christmas Eve, a weary world rejoices. God tells us gentlemen and gentlewomen to rest merry.
And so we pray: God, creator of the universe, what marvelous you have showered on us and on the universe in the Incarnation of Jesus made flesh. You nourish our spirit with the elements of Jesus’s own life, his body and blood. We thank you for allowing us to participate in the healing work of Jesus in this world by what we do and by what we suffer, bringing the Body of Christ to fulfillment. We thank you for this new life in Jesus. We thank you for the mystery of the gift of CHRISTMAS.