Isaiah 9, 1-6; Psalm 96; Titus 2, 11-14; Luke 2, 10-11
When God said that His ways are different from us, the best proof is Christmas. First, we celebrate God’s unusual way of choosing people. She chose an ordinary woman to be the Mother of His Son. The world naturally assigns the most popular and titled to big roles. For example, big budgeted films for the big stars; national events for the dignitaries; fashion events for the who’s who of society. But for a role that would change the world, God chose not a beauty queen but a young Jewish woman from an obscure village as Bethlehem. In film language, God as the casting agent has a different set of criteria. As for the animals who would join Mary and Joseph, we had that story:
While Joseph and Mary were on their way to Bethlehem, an angel had a secret meeting with the animals to choose which of them was to help the holy family in the stable.
Naturally, the lion volunteered first. "Only a king," said he, "is worthy to serve the ruler of the world. I'll tear to pieces anyone who gets anywhere near the child."
"Oh no, you're too overpowering," said the angel.
Next the sly fox sidled up and with an innocent face remarked, "I'll see to it that the Baby Jesus gets the sweetest honey, and I'll steal a chicken each morning for His mother."
"Oh no, you're too devious and scheming," the angel told him.
Next the peacock came up and unfolded her marvelously-colored tail feathers. Said she, "I'll decorate that little barn better than Solomon did his temple."
"I'm sorry," said the angel, "You're too vain."
Many others came up and offered their services. Not one was chosen. The angel took a final look around and then saw a donkey and an ox out in the field working with a farmer. The angel called them over. "What have you got to offer?" he asked the pair.
"Nothing," said the donkey as he dropped down his long ears. "We haven't learned anything but humility and patience. Whatever else we tried to learn only got us more whippings."
Then the ox added bashfully, "Well, maybe there is some little thing we could do, like keep the flies away by swinging our tails."
"Right on!" said the angel. "You are the two we want."
Christmas then is a story of empowerment. God trusts the simple and the uncomplicated. He recognizes the virtues of the lowly and the poor. He looks at the depths of a person’s heart and not any outward image or appearance. It extols people at the backstage of the world’s show. And therefore, Christmas encourages those who have low regard for themselves; it inspires those who feel that they are talentless and useless; it asks those who are disheartened to believe in themselves because God first believed in the human race. It tells us that no matter how insignificant we think we are, we can change the world and the people around us.
Second, God’s style is different from ours. His idea is creative and original. The Mother is a Virgin. The child is God. The baby in an animal shack is a King and his father is a carpenter. Those who recognize the Child’s greatness are not the society’s illustrious but shepherds and astrologers. They are guided not by a map, but a star; not at sea but on dry ground.
This is, to me, the way to go. In our struggles today, we have to be creative. We both have to think outside of the box, and think within the box. To think outside of the box means to be as daring as God. As we keep in mind the values that extols our dignity and keep our gaze on the Lord, we are encouraged to be creative in our lives. Explore new ways and means to further our values in the present world; venture into new territory in our livelihood; dare to risk when we discern that God may be calling us into another vocation. Whatever road we take, we are assured that God will accompany us and at the same time will meet us wherever He brings us.
To think within the box means to know our limitations and therefore to work within the limits. Jesus was born within a specific culture and race. The limits can be budgetary. With the global recession looming over us, we need to work and recreate within our means --- and not to over spend. Moreover, the limits can be our life form. Before marriage, we can explore different expressions of love in our relationships, without venturing into genital activity. For those who have committed themselves in religious life, we can be creative in our life style, remaining faithful to the vows we have pronounced.
Having said this, may I suggest a way to celebrate Christmas. We make the belen the most important point in our Christmas decorations. We put it in the most visible place in our homes to remind ourselves of our vocation: that God chose ordinary people like us, to be creative in our mission as Christians today. If possible, encourage the family to pray around the belen during this Season of Joy. We should feel good on Christmas because God believed in us --- and continually believes that we can be faithful to how He created us. Remember, He saw how good creation was!