Christmas Day, 2021
CCUSA’s Daily Advent Reflections: Christmas Day
For many of us, the cards have been sent and received, the gifts wrapped and now opened, the meal around the table perhaps still anticipated. We have sung the carols of rejoicing in our parishes. But what does this confounding mystery of incarnational love mean for us, going forward to serve our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters in the coming year?
Full confession, I’m solidly in my middle age and increasingly struck by the acceleration of time. How can Christmas be here again so soon? I swear I just wrestled the decorations back into storage. But if I allow myself a moment of detachment from the busy-ness, I can instead recognize that I am much in need of spending time with this mystery of God choosing to be born among us in our weak form. I am much in need of meditating on the birth – again and again – of the Divine Presence within my own ragged heart. I am much in need of being subtly (or not so subtly) cracked open to the outpouring of love that defies our rules and boundaries, our divisions and our distractions.
Luke’s Gospel describes the sign of this great inbreaking into history as an infant swaddled in a manger. If ever there were a divine sign that confounded our human expectations, this must be it. In our daily work, we are privileged to encounter God in these confounding forms, continually challenging us to expand our notions of who and how God loves. How can I help Lance, who persists in his homelessness, having been barred from even the low-barrier shelters for his violent outbursts, but who thanks us genuinely when we find him food or clothing? How can I help Nora, caring for her stroke-afflicted husband in a trailer whose heater is broken during our northern winter? How can I care for the Hernandez family, farmworkers living in a remote rural community, whose mother passed away in October, followed by their father taking his own life in grief a month later?
To paraphrase the poet, the darkness around us is deep. The inbreaking of light we celebrate today is quite small. And yet it persists. It insists. But it does not impose. It invites. Our work can seem impossible. Remember, our call is not to success, but to faithfulness. Faithfulness to show up for the ones who come to us. We all know their names. Today, those names are Lance, Nora, and the Hernandez family. What are the names for you? Hold them in prayer for a moment today.
May God bless you richly in this season of celebration and strengthen you to recognize Him in the encounters to come.
Scott Cooper has been Director of Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities Eastern Washington, Diocese of Spokane, for 21 years.