December 12, 2015
At Christmas time, we reflect on the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And well we should; it is one of the most important celebrations in the Church year because it commemorates the day God was born as a tiny baby in a cave in Bethlehem.
In high school, I knew a young man who, though Christian, did not celebrate Christmas. His particular protestant sect taught — and he was eager to explain at any opportunity — that there is no evidence that Christ was actually born on December 25th. Therefore, they did not celebrate Christmas, and everyone else was misguided for celebrating Christmas.
He was finally silenced by a young lady who, upon hearing his claim, cocked her head to the side, looked at him like he had sprouted a second head, and said: “We celebrate because it happened, not when it happened.”
Both believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our savior. Both were speaking of the same event: the birth of Our Lord. And both, I am willing to presume, at some level believed that the event deserved to be remembered. But both had a vastly different perception of the remembrance. One, because the actual date was not known to him, believed that a commemoration was pointless. For the other, the mere fact that we know it did happen was all the evidence required for Christmas.
Perspective can be defined as a particular way of viewing something… an attitude toward something. Simply: a point of view. In this case, it’s the same event but a vastly different perspective.
I would like to remind you of the story of a young man from a very rural desert region. You’ve probably all heard this story, although it might have faded some from memory. It happened long ago. This young man had some mental issues, it seems. He, by his own public admission, was known to have tortured and killed small animals for fun. In his late teens, he met up with a somewhat sketchy religious figure — not Christian — who was largely mistrusted by those few people in the region. He was rapidly radicalized and soon teamed up with a known criminal with whom he plotted a terrorist attack against a military base that resulted in many, many deaths and the further unstabling of an already unstable area.
Star Wars has been in the news a lot here, lately. Well, that’s the story of Luke Skywalker’s attack on the Death Star… told from the perspective of the Empire. Same story. Same facts. Same events, even if they are a work of fiction. But two radically different perspectives.
And why would I tell such a story? Simple: perspective is a dangerous thing. There are facts; there are human events. But, there is one Truth: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Unfortunately, there are many, many perspectives that color that truth. That reshape it… and that rob it of real truth.
We can be sure and certain of few things in this world. The television peddles fear and mistrust. That is not the truth. Society tells us to doubt… to view others as our competition, or… worse… or enemies. That, too, is not the truth.
We can be truly certain of only that which the Church teaches: that we are to love God and we are to love our neighbor as our self. That Christ was born in a manger, lived among us, and was crucified for our sins. That we have been given a short time on earth and that at the end of our life, we will be judged by God, who is love, and we will be judged on how well we loved. There is no love without response to God’s grace.
Today we remember the Holy Family, which for us is a model of Christian love. Let us during the Christmas season make it our focus to live as Paul encourages us; to Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.
Let us make it our business to put aside difference… to put aside fear… and to see in all of those around us the face of Christ; to recognize the dignity of the other, because that dignity is equal to our own. Jesus Christ loves every man, woman, and child on this planet. God considers every person to be of equal dignity and equal worth. That is the truth, regardless of our perspective.
During this Christmas season, let us dedicate ourselves to laying aside differences and living the Truth. That is the life to which we are called. Our Christian dignity deserves no less. Let us see everyone, from the person in the pew beside us to the stranger on the street as all being members of one holy family. Let us ask God to let the peace of Christ control our hearts and to unite us all in one family — one body — with unity and love. Amen.