Crib in our hearts: Understanding the real meaning of Christmas

Rev. Fr. Paul Mwaeze

By Rev. Fr. Paul Nwaeze

The crib, or crèche as some may prefer to call it, is one of the many decorations we display in our homes, churches or in some cases along the streets in preparation for Christmas. It depicts the nativity scene – the tiny Baby Jesus lying in a manger under the loving, watchful eyes of His mother Mary and her husband Joseph, surrounded by the animals, the shepherds, the three Wise Men and the angels. This image is a powerful reminder of what we actually celebrate at Christmas: the birth of Jesus the Saviour!

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (Gal. 4:4-6). In the “fullness of time”, the Second Person of the Trinity, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and pitched His tent among us. The birth of Christ in the “fullness of time” marked the beginning of a new dawn; with it, humanity is, as it were, born anew. God, through His Son, entered into a deeper relationship with us. This is the Good News of Christmas!

Christ, assuming our nature and entering into our human history, succinctly sums up God’s love for us. His love was so great that He chose to become one of us, to take up our human and sinful nature in order to deliver us from sin and to lead us back to God. As already stated, this love is made visible in the person of Jesus Christ, Who equally showed us love in every possible way even to the point of laying down His life for our sake. In Christ, we see the tender, loving face of God. He made us sharers in His divine life and love when He came to us as a human being. Therefore, love is at the centre of Christmas. As Christina Rossetti said, “Love came down at Christmas; Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Stars and angels gave the sign.” Filled with the awesome presence of the love of God in our lives, with the angels, we sing for joy: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favours” (Lk. 2:14).

To celebrate this great feast, we decorate our homes; we hang Christmas lights, put up our Christmas trees and spend a considerable amount of time in buying, wrapping and sending out gifts to our friends and loved ones. This is all good! However, let us not be carried away by these external trappings and thereby miss the true meaning of Christmas. It is not all about buying and selling or eating and drinking. It is all about the person of Jesus Christ. He is the reason for the season. Christmas is not a date; it is a state of mind, as noted by Mary Ellen Chase. It is all about being open to the invitation to live in union with God so as to enjoy the fullness of life which He alone can give. It is all about welcoming the baby Jesus and to make enough room for Him in our hearts. It is all about living in total fidelity to His gospel message by imitating His love, generosity, kindness and compassion. It is all about living in peace with our families, friends and neighbours. It is all about forgiving one another as we have been forgiven in Christ. This is what we celebrate every year during Christmas. It is a great opportunity to enter deeply into the wonders of this great mystery of inexhaustible profundity.

The angels told the shepherds to leave their sheep and to go and visit the Baby lying in a manger in nearby Bethlehem. They did an unheard of thing for shepherds: they left their sheep all on their own and hurried to see the Newborn King. What awe and wonder they must have experienced as they stood or knelt by the manger on that Holy Night long ago. What joy must have been in their hearts as they climbed the hills outside Bethlehem on their way back to their sheep! The poorest of Bethlehem had been chosen to be the very first visitors to the Son of God. How blessed by God they were and how blessed by God are we – for we are invited to enthrone the Son of God in the crib of our hearts as we too come to adore Him. Let us make a resting place for the Newborn King in our hearts this Christmas. Merry Christmas!

About the writer

Rev.Fr. Paul Nwaeze is a Nigerian-born priest and pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish, Russell, Ontario.



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