By Fr. Erik Esparza
What comes to mind when you think about Christmas?
For many, Christmas brings about the experience of joy, peace and love. It is a time devoted to giving and celebration. It is a moment to share faith and fellowship. It offers hope and new life. The festive nature of the days leading up to Christmas, Christmas itself, and the days following are full of laughter, delight, and friendship. The world, whether it realizes it or not, honors a celebration that recalls the greatest gift the world has ever known, the birth of Christ!
Now, let’s go back to the first Christmas. As we reflect by use of the Holy Scriptures, we come to know that the birth of Jesus was anything but ideal. Mary and Joseph needed to travel in the last month of her pregnancy. Upon reaching Bethlehem, it became time for Mary to give birth; yet she and Joseph were unable to find welcome in any home. It was then that they turned to what would have been a smelly and uncomfortable place to await the newborn king. Once Jesus was born, he was placed into a manger, which was used to feed the animals that would have surrounded him. Soon after being acknowledged by the Magi and Shepherds as the Savior, the Holy Family would need to flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Herod upon Jesus. It would not be until later, after the slaughter of innocent life, that the Holy Family could return home.
As humans we have a tendency to gloss over the messiness of life. We may ignore it, reason it away or even justify it. We can overlook the sacrifice and only celebrate the victory. We may forget to honor the obstacles and challenges along the way. The true story of Christmas acknowledges the brokenness of humanity and the darkness that often reigns. Christmas confronts the brokenness, the darkness, and sin, but overcomes it with meaning, purpose and hope. When we invite Jesus into our lives, just like when he came into the world, he brings forth joy to confront the sadness, peace to replace discord, and love to overcome hate. The light that flows from Jesus is more than enough to overcome any darkness. Jesus, the newborn king and savior, didn’t come into the world at the ideal time or when all had been repaired. No, God in proving His immense love for us, sent His Son into a chaotic and broken world to lead us back!
What makes Christmas so great is that it is a reminder of God’s great love. It invites us to look into our own messy lives and to know that Christ looks to enter right into the middle of it! He desires to bring His presence of joy, peace and love. It is my prayer that you never forget that Jesus came to bring his light and set you on God’s path. Jesus will always come into any messy and dark place to bring meaning and light.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Father Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.