“Christmas day is began—the day of our dear Redeemer’s birth… is the day that opened to us the door of everlasting life.”
— St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Welcome Christmas! Welcome! I shed tears of gratitude and joy that you have come, O Incarnate Word, to redeem us, to bring us into your marvelous light, and away from the darkness in which we cower.
In the days leading up to your Nativity, O Christ, we struck matches and lit candles and recalled how within this broken world we are forever dealing with an absence of light – that light is beyond us, and exterior to us, until we make it welcome and bring it deeply inside ourselves; into our hearts, into our souls, into the deepest ground of our beings.
Welcome into our ever-aching void, welcome into the parts of us touched by human frost and stunted. Welcome, O Light, beaming glorious, into remotest apertures of our souls, rays aglow, warmth permeating those places where we have left old fires unattended, and embers to wane, and our abysses to grow chill, and uninhabitable.
Welcome Christ Our Light; dispelling illusion, and chasing our old ghosts to rest.
Today the promise is fulfilled in You, and announced by angels, singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those of good will!” (Luke 2:14) They herald a promise of peace through redemption – an eternal offering meant for any who want it, even though you will suffer to make it our Reality.
The Word Present penetrates lonely, lost humanity, and enters into the pain and fear, the tumult and the whirlwind that has been so much of what we know. You set your tent with us – not merely dwelling among us, but truly with us; with hunger; with the capacity for injury and doubt. With enough vulnerability to be broken.
And within this Divine Espousal – this marriage between Heaven and Earth – everything is illuminated, everything is changed.
Soon the travels and intentions of humble shepherds and learned men will lead them to an unexpected cave, where both groups will look on in equal measures of wonder and awe at the Balm of Gilead they behold.
Soon there will be a prophecy made within the Presence of the Light: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many…and to be a sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:43) And a sword of fear piercing a pure and steadfast heart.
Soon — too soon — there will be a movement of darkness made against the Light, and a need for refuge as the forces of chaos resist, and blood flows and women are desolated with grief.
But for now, for this day, we are a people bathed in your radiance, a world with a true reason to rejoice. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
May we praise you, Christ Child, and welcome you into our world, and into our hearts. May we grow in gratitude and intimacy with you, as we live within your light. May we begin the renewal of our relationship with you in a prayer of recognition:
Lord, have mercy…
Christ, have mercy…
Lord, have mercy…
Incarnate Word, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Logos and Icon of the Father, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
All-Light, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Son of Mary, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Charge of Joseph, Kind and Strong, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Manger-lain Child, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Bread of Angels, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Food for the World, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Light of the Nations, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Divine Spouse, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Balm of Gilead, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Wonderful Counselor, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Font of Mercy, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Face of Justice, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Our Salvation, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Luminous Mystery, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Bright Promise Kept, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
God-With-Us, Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world
Let us pray: Christ Jesus, in your littleness, teach us how to be humble before others. In your vulnerability, teach us to trust that all of God’s purposes redound to our good. In your gifting generosity, teach us how to freely give of ourselves to others. In your Light, teach us how to reflect you, in your mercy and justice, to the rest of the world. With all of your holy men and women, and with the angels and saints, we stand before your improbable throne – the food bin from which you will feed the world – and ask this in your name. Amen.
ELIZABETH SCALIA is the award-winning author of Strange Gods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life and Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking Our Bad Habits Before They Kick You.
Image: Nativity, Pinturicchio (1454-1513)