As part of my Advent preparations this year, I chose to re-read Pope Benedict’s magnificent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. This beautiful reflection on the Gospel stories of Our Lord’s birth is a wonderful way to prepare for Christmas.
On passage struck me this year, particularly in light of everything that the Church has been going through, and where I am in my own faith journey. The Pope wrote about Mary and Joseph’s arrival in Bethlehem, where there was no room for them in the inn, so the Lord of Lords would have to be born in the most humble accommodations imaginable. Our Holy Father said:
This should cause us to reflect — it points toward the reversal of values found in the figure of Jesus Christ and his message. From the moment of his birth, be belongs outside the realm of what is important and powerful in worldly terms. yet it is the unimportant and powerless child that proves to be the truly powerful one, the one on whom ultimately everything depends. So one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standards, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being, and aided by that light to find the right path.
As the commemoration of the Lord’s birth approaches, this is a powerful reminder of the fundamental choice that we all must make — for the ways of the world, or for the ways of God.
The choice is becoming more and more difficult. Around the world, Christians are being persecuted violently, for the mere fact that they believe in Jesus and wish to worship Him openly. Here in America, we are governed by an Administration that seeks to arrogate to itself the power to define true religion, and seeks to marginalize those who believe otherwise. Social stigma is increasingly being placed on Christians, in an effort to pressure us to conform to contemporary hedonism, consumerism and utilitarianism. Those who dare to speak out publicly for the immemorial beliefs of our faith are blacklisted, excluded, or punished. We are grieved because in our own lives, so many of our siblings, friends, and children are making wrong choices.
Yet the right decision is always there for us to make. Our Lord continually beckons from his humble manger, calling us to leave the “important” things of the world behind, to choose the right path, and to walk by his light. The challenge is to emulate Mary and Joseph, who lowered themselves to enter the stable, trusting that the will of God would prevail against the ways of the world. To follow the shepherds, who believed the angel and went down to see their Savior on his unlikely throne. To walk with the Wise Men, across boundaries and through the courts of the powerful, seeking the mystery of a God who emptied himself to take on human estate.
The King of Glory approaches, in the most unexpected way. What decision will I make?