A glance at the world situation could often leave us with the feeling that, God who brought the world into existence has deserted it. The turbulent situation prevalent in the world, the refugee crisis and other events deficient in human love and respect, could call us to question the God that we believe in. While the hazy clouds loom over us, the season of Advent and the forthcoming feast of Christmas offer us hope and spiritual courage. Christmas is characterized by a season of waiting, yearning, expectation and longing (Advent), which is fulfilled by the gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest). The bright star of Christmas is the assurance of hope, joy, peace and unity offered in the little babe in the manger.
The season of Advent in the Christian calendar is a time of expectation and waiting – for the coming of God in the human person of Jesus. It is a waiting for the great feast of Christmas. The omnipresent, eternal One assumed human nature and was born in time. God became humanly present in Jesus. God became an integral part of human history, so that human history could continue to keep present, the presence of God. In a way, God humanizes himself in the event of Christmas. This humanizing is simultaneously a reminder that there is no chasm between God and the human person. We cannot divorce ourselves of the presence of God, and the call to live out the presence of God. The story of Christmas is a reminder that God is an essential part of us. We are graced by the presence of God. We are called to be the reflection of God’s presence and love. It is a reminder that each person is an image of God in essence, even though we fail to live up to it. Since Jesus assumed our human nature and existence, he shares in our essence, make us sharers of divine essence. Our life is meant to be a divine spark, setting the lives of others aflame with God’s presence, peace and love. Thomas Merton in his book ‘No Man Is An Island’ says, “God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet, He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes to be absent. If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He is absent than when He is present.”
And so, Christmas is all about celebrating the presence of God in each of us. The Christmas fervour is often reduced to the ‘presents’ that we are called to think of. I am sure we all have been contemplating and looking for what presents we can source for our family members and friends. The presents are a good way of expressing our love and affection to those who matter most to us.
But, perhaps we could also pause and think whether the present, presents our presence to the other person or is only a thing, which is external to us. Does it make our presence palpable to the person who receives it? Does it impact the heart and soul of the receiver or is only another thing to adorn the house or the person?
The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It should illuminate the soul. As Calvin Coolidge would remind us, “Christmas is not a time or season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”.
God in Jesus offers us His presence. He lives in us, accompanies us and comforts us. God offered us peace, joy, light and blessings in the great gift of Jesus. As we think of the Christmas presents this year, we could perhaps also think of making our presence, our goodwill, our love, our peace, our forgiveness an integral part of the present. It is then that we will truly live out the presence of God, which is our essence – the Divine presence in us.