December 2005 - Volume 10, Issue 5
The Season Of Christmas
The season of Christmas is one filled with all sorts of emotions. People are saddened, especially if they are elderly. Their friends are dying, their families are scattered and they have a lot of the sicknesses that accompany the process of aging. Most of us are pretty well active during this season of Christmas. We all shop. We all send Christmas cards. We all try to participate in the festivity of the season. Long after Christmas is over, long after the Christmas tree has wilted, long after the Christmas cards are taken off the mantel, long after the Christmas carols have stopped, we are still confronted with the story of the greatest event in the history of civilization and what it should mean to us. Alan Toynbee, the great English historian and sociologist, said that the greatest event in the history of the world was the birth day of Jesus Christ. When you analyze the importance of this event, it is a reminder to each one of us that the major thought all of us should have about Christmas is that God sent his son to establish a relationship with us so that you and I can one day achieve eternal happiness with Him.
During the Christmas season, we can celebrate with Christmas trees, Christmas carols and Christmas homecomings. But the one important lesson that has to be uppermost in our minds between now and next Christmas is that God wanted to establish a relationship with us. He sent a Son that would become the Christ of Bethlehem and that Christ of Bethlehem throughout the course of His life would teach us four specific qualities that would enable us to intensify our relationship with Him.
He taught us about peace of mind when He said, "my peace I leave you, my peace I leave unto you."
He taught us about love when he said, "greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend."
He taught us about compassion when he said, "I will be with you always even until the end of time."
He taught us about forgiveness, especially from the Cross when, when he said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Peace, love, compassion and forgiveness. Those are the qualities that Jesus Christ taught from the moment He entered this earth until his last moment on this earth. You and I during the season of Christmas can get easily distracted from the teachings of Christ, but if Christmas is to have any lasting and substantial meaning, it must be understood in the one word - relationships.
You and I are asked each day of our lives to become more like Christ. The more we bring peace, love, compassion and forgiveness into the lives of others, the more we deepen our relationship with Christ. Christ established a relationship with us in Bethlehem He continued that relationship with us on Calvary. The whole message of Christmas from the Christ of Bethlehem to the Christ of Calvary is summed up in one word, relationships.
Every one of us can explain how we get caught up in the accidentals of the Christmas season. We can justify how we have family coming home, how we have meals to prepare, how we have guest to receive. We can get caught up in all the wonderful trappings of the Christmas season itself. All of which brings happiness to our personal Christmas, but if we miss the meaning of this one word, relationships, than we have lost the purpose that Christ had in mind when He entered this earth. If you study all the great saints who have come down through the ages from St. Augustine to St. Thomas, all of them highlighted this one word - relationship.
What is our relationship with Christ during this Christmas season? Are we any closer to Christ compared to this time last year? What sort of relationship will we have with Christ during this coming year in preparation for the next Christmas? You will not find a more beautiful prayer that sums up how we can deepen our relationship with Christ than that which is found in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer that St. Francis said, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is sadness, let me bring joy, where there is hatred let me bring love, where there is darkness, let me bring light."
If you analyze this prayer, it incorporates all of the qualities that Christ wanted us to learn from the first moment He came into this earth. We are expected to be an instrument of peace to those with whom we live and work. We are expected to be an instrument of love to those who are languishing in life. We are expected to be an instrument of compassion to those in want and need. We are expected to be an instrument of forgiveness to those who have trespassed against us. All of these things you have heard about over the years, but there is one theme that should be kept in mind by all of us during this sacred season of Christmas. You have to work at your relationship with Christ. It is more than lip service or just a few prayers. It is trying to be with as much constancy as possible as Christ-like as you can be to those with whom you live and work. That is what the season of Christmas is all about.
If you study the Christ, you might remember that the Christ of Bethlehem eventually became the Christ of Calvary. His whole life for over 30 years was spent walking through the streets of Jerusalem and Judea bringing peace, bringing love, bringing compassion, bringing forgiveness. If you want to take this event, the event of the birth of Christ seriously and just take a look at the Cross and turn it around, and as St. Augustine said on the other side of the cross there is an empty side. That side is reserved for each one of us. The more we bring peace and love and compassion and forgiveness to those we call our neighbors and friends the more we deepen our personal relationship with God's son. That is the real purpose of Christmas. If you study the history of that first Christmas you might recall the shepherds, the wise men, had one thing in common, the poor and the rich. Each one of them made an extraordinary effort throughout their lives to deepen their relationship with Christ and they succeeded because they worked at deepening that relationship. Every one who does so in our age, long after the Christmas trees have been burnt, long after the Christmas cards have been torn up, everyone who makes that effort to deepen his relationship with Christ, the Christ of Bethlehem and the Christ of Calvary, will one day hear the words that Christ spoke from the Cross when he said,
"One day you will be with me in paradise."
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