A question which must be asked
Such is the power of Christmas that it cannot be overwhelmed, not even by the constant bobbardment of commercial schlock.
God Almighty became a human being —not just any person but a poor carpenter in an obscure part of the world, subject to foreign domination. That he should be born in a stable, a place ordinarily unfit for human habitation adds to the mystery.
Our notions of God, of what it is to be human, and the value of human activity are all transformed by this event.
The commercial Christmas of our secular world is only loosely connected with this event. The modern secular Christmas is a celebration of good food, social events, and gift-giving. It is a celebration of values directly at odds with what is represented by God Almighty making himself into a poor carpenter.
Yet every year, despite the commercial antics, I find myself deeply touched by the reality of christ’s birth. Often without warning, usually over the space of just a few moement, I find myself almost overawed by the reality we are celebrating, the awesomeness of God’s love. Such moments of awe, brief as they may be, represent not only the most beautiful part of Christmas but one of the most beautiful moments of my entire year.
Christmas is a celebration of God becoming man. Importantly, it is also a celebration of God having become a poor person. Christmas celebrations are incomplete unless they acknowledge and celebrate not only that God loves the poor and oppressed but that He became poor and oppressed.
It is the duty of all of us who call ourselves Christian to come to the assistance of those who are poor or oppressed. But our calling does not end with such assistance. Christians throughout the centuries have recognized that to follow Christ requires becoming, in some real and substantial way, one with the poor.
Francis of Assisi, probably the most popular saint of all time, wins wide love and respect because of the unbridled vigour with which he pursued this very goal.
Our pro-life work presents us with a unique challenge. The unborn truly constitute members of our family who are poor and oppressed. By working to protect the unborn we are part of the Christian church’s mission to help the distressed. But try as we might however, we will never become an unborn child.
That presents a problem, because being someone’s helper is inevitably a position of power. As givers, we have something to give —a benefit to bestow upon the lowly recipient. Indeed the recipient is meant to show due gratitude for the fact that he has now received what we already ad for ourselves. This is true even when what we have to give is something we received as the beneficiaries of an unjust system. Small wonder that the recipients of charity become resentful!
Merely giving to the poor, merely working for the unborn fails to live up to the reality of Christmas. We must seek to become like those whom we say we want to help. We cannot become again an unborn child, but we can and should begin the process of becoming one with all the poor. To embrace poverty in any form, including illness, is to be at one with all who are subject to poverty or oppression, including the unborn.
At Christmas all of the world’s poor and all of the world’s oppressed are united in their poverty to the God made Man.
The question I must ask myself is: “Am I?”