|Adoration of the Magi by Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1530) | Wikipedia|
A star guides learned men (Zoroastrians? Magi?) from the east (Babylon? Persia/Iran?) toward Bethlehem (St. Matthew 2).
Two thousand years less a few decades in a land, and ever since the seventh century when the Sword of the Crescent Moon began slashing at the Middle East, the Assyrians have remained faithful to the Gospel delivered to them by the Apostles. An oasis of hope in a war torn region. The Crib and the Cross have blunted the Sword and, in God's time, the Gospel of Truth and mercy will beat the Quran into ploughshares (cf Isaiah 2:4).
Meanwhile, in the Light deprived West, we celebrate Christmas in relative comfort.
In my neck of the woods, more people have wished me a 'Merry Christmas' thus far, and for that matter for weeks now, than I can recall in recent years. Is it because the pressure is on in a society that is increasingly hostile to Christianity and, like food in a pressure cooker, people's good flavours (beliefs) are being released (celebrated openly)?
Welcome to the banquet!
In my experience of late, it seems that people are more frequently offering 'Merry Christmas' with a smile and eye contact instead of the flat and trite phrase 'season's greetings' typically tossed in for 'good-bye and get lost'. Those who do say 'season's greetings' tend to do so with little eye contact and a dismissive tone approaching contempt. A bad day at the office? Perhaps.
Those folk who do wish you a 'Merry Christmas' are, perhaps, tired of hearing those generic words on their lips and perhaps recognize how utterly unsatisfying it is to offer a meaningless 'season's greetings'. Everyone knows what season it is we celebrate! It is so much more honest, and therefore pleasing, to say 'Merry Christmas' (1 Peter 3:15).
Perhaps people are no longer willing to ignore the joy-filled fact that the reason we give gifts, send cards and spend hours if not days preparing feasts (for family and friends and the homeless) is because we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ! Post office workers, bakery staff, bus drivers, restaurant servers, bank tellers, convenience store employees, grocery store clerks—all seem to be finding the Christmas spirit and are willing to share it in this seemingly sanitized society of ours. Perhaps they are grateful for the extra employment in the lead up to Christmas. Hearts that are grateful tend to produce smiles on the faces of both the host and one's guests.
ISIS and western militant secularists both hate the Gospel, or at least they think they do. Their anger, however, cannot overcome the loving Light that gently shines through the faithful witness of the Christian, of someone offering a 'Merry Christmas'. By resisting the joy of the Nativity, angry secularists only make themselves angrier.
One could suppose that some people enjoy the chaos (anger, hatred, confusion, fear, narcissism, etc.) they live and create, so they—much like angry children—attempt again and again to recreate the chaos they "love" in order to draw attention to themselves. In doing so, they are merely confirming their need for authentic love and authentic freedom. If only they could realize how inadequate their present attitude and behaviour is, they might discover a way out of their fears, despair, anger, etc., and their lives and society could become much more hope-filled and civilized places. The health of a society, or the lack thereof, is merely a reflection of the condition of the human heart. One could add that the health of the environment, or the lack thereof, is a reflection, too, of the state of the human heart.
The human heart needs Jesus Christ. To be free of debilitating fear and the despair that results, the human heart needs the peace only Jesus can give. Christmas offers hope and joy. Open the door to Christ; enter into His peace. Allow the vulnerable and gentle infant Jesus, born two thousand years ago, to be born anew into your life this Christmas. Invite Jesus into your life; call upon the Holy Spirit to fill your life with the Presence of Jesus. See in the presents beneath the Christmas Tree the Gift waiting to find a home in your heart.
The love of Christ can conquer any pattern of ill behaviour and every entrenched negative attitude. All it takes for a change of heart is to practice each day saying 'yes' to the hope found in Jesus Christ and the Church He gave for the health of the world. Each 'yes' will pry open even the most stubborn heart to release itself from the tyranny of a prison of one's own making. Ask Jesus for grace, the strength to persevere.
Death could not contain Jesus in the tomb. And so, the Star reminds us that the Light of Bethlehem pried open that tomb, and can pry open the tomb of our hearts and minds if we let Jesus in. Jesus is the light of the world.
I, for one, am thankful that people feel comfortable enough sharing a genuine 'Merry Christmas' in the marketplace. It is refreshing to hear, once again, the frequent sharing of a joy-filled greeting, especially as these dark winter days yield to the light.
And, no, this blogger has not yet seen the latest Star Wars. That day will arrive soon enough.
Merry Christmas, dear readers.