A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Hope and Promise of Christmas

Fr Kevin Head SM

The sad list of what’s wrong with our world goes on and on. Christmas does not change the fact that many people live in desperate poverty. Children die of malnutrition and the gap between the rich and poor grows by the minute. Men and women are motivated to kill one another in the name of God. Refugees are exploited, trafficked and imprisoned or sold into prostitution. Governments seem incapable of taking decisive action to combat global warming … and yet …

There is more goodness in the world than there is sinfulness and evil. Most people in the world are doing their best to make the world a better place, coping with all the problems as well as they can, and most people turn to God in prayer each day.

And the promise of Christmas is alive in the universe, because God comes from his inexpressible glory into the heart and flesh of humanity. He comes as one of us, present in our midst, healing, teaching, and showing us what love is, by laying down his life for us. He brings us hope, that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.

God is with us! He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the new-born baby.

Yes, there is evil and suffering on earth, and Christmas dares us to celebrate God’s presence among us even though we still suffer. The fact that God is with us in the baby Jesus does not bring about immediate solutions to the world’s problems, and, in fact, the world still looks much as it always did.

This is because, when he sent his Son, God did not send Superman or Batman or Arnold Schwarzenegger to obliterate the baddies. God sent a baby, dependent and vulnerable, with a mattress of hay in a feeding trough, needing to be fed and changed and cuddled. God’s power, in a baby, who won’t destroy the bad people, but who will change hearts by means of his peaceful and gentle presence.

Christmas does not promise to drive evil out of the world, nor does it bring about heaven on earth. For every human being there will still be sadness, illness, shattered dreams and hopes dashed. What Christmas promises is God’s presence in our lives, here on earth, and God’s presence redeems us, so that we become less self-centred and more generous to those in need of the help we are able to give them, and so that we can dare to hope that the world will become better.

Hope, in the end, brings about change. Hope bases itself on belief that God exists, that God is powerful, that God is good, and the promise that results from that. Jesuit priest, Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a man of real hope. After giving a lecture, in which he outlined a vision of peace and unity for the world that was drawn from the vision of Scripture, some of his listeners challenged him: “That’s a lovely, idealistic vision of things, but what happens to your vision if we blow the world up with a nuclear bomb?” Teilhard’s reply: “That would set things back some millions of years, but this will still come to fruition, not because I say so or because the facts right now indicate that it will, but because God promised it, and in the resurrection of Jesus, has shown that he is powerful enough to deliver on that promise”. *

Rejoice! God is with us! The editor and Marist Messenger staff wish everyone a holy, peaceful and happy Christmas.  

* Quoted by Fr Ronald Rolheiser OMI, in an article called The Promise of Christmas

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