The Child with Authority

shepherds at mangerA reflection on the readings from the Christmas Eve midnight Mass

First Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7
Psalm:  Psalm 96:1-4, 11-13
Second Reading:  Titus 2:11-14
Gospel:  Luke 2:1-16

 

Expectations are running high—the whole world is watching, and not just the world today, but through all of history, every generation awaits with bated breath.  It is the answer to all our troubles.  Those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.  Our burdens will be lifted and we shall be freed from oppression!  We will be saved from injustice and wickedness, for justice and righteousness will be established!  We will be purified, and there will be endless peace!  All these hopes, dreams, and expectations are all placed upon one thing: the birth of a small child.  Think about this for a moment.  Why should we hope in the Christ child?  Why would we ever expect such a tall order from one man, let alone on a newborn baby?  To lay the weight of the whole world upon the shoulders of a child… not only is this absurd, but it is positively cruel!

baby jesus in mangerImagine for a moment that you were this child.  At the age of 7, you were told that since you were born, every generation in all of history has been expecting you to bring justice and peace; to change and save the whole world.  People showed up from far and wide to see you at your birth, so that they could behold the one person for whom they have waited expectantly, and in whom they have placed all their hopes.  That is a tremendous amount of pressure, and it seems quite preposterous to think that such a thing could be expected of any one person.  Yet this is what we have done with the Christ child.  All of creation leans in with expectation that this little, unassuming, can-barely-wrap-his-whole-hand-around-your-finger baby, will somehow carry on his shoulders the weight of the world.  Ask yourself, why should we hope in this Christ child?  Why surrender our lives and place all our stock in a baby?

“But this is no ordinary baby” you might say.  “This baby is God!”  True, but how does that really matter?  The world is full of billions of people, and that only counts those who are alive right now.  All those people don’t seem to agree with peace and justice and the like, and wars are ongoing.  Even our own households are often a mess.  We have estranged family members who have hurt us so deeply we refuse to forgive them, outbursts over the stress of Christmas preparations, and we harbor jealousy over that sibling who got better gifts than me.  Does God really expect us to put all our hope in changing these things in the hands of a little child?

Many years ago, I went on a trip with a friend of mine to a week-long, Catholic retreat.  We chanced upon a hitchhiker and decided we would pick him up.  When he saw the rosary hanging from the mirror, and after asking us where we were going, very soon we found ourselves discussing God and faith.  I asked the man if he ever prayed to God.  He told me that he used to, but he figured that God was pretty busy up there, taking care of all the world’s problems.  call centerHe said, “The way I see it, it’s like in heaven there is a phone for every single person who prays to God, and every time someone prays, their phone rings.  There are so many problems in the world and so many people who need God more than I do, and I just don’t want to take up His time with my little old problems.  He’s got enough phones ringing off the hook that He doesn’t need me calling.  So I don’t pray.”  I looked at the hitchhiker through the rear-view mirror.  “It sure sounds like you’re trying to do something very heroic,” I said.  “But I think the truth is a little different than how you described your analogy.  Imagine that God is able to be at every single phone with the kind of attention and devotion as though there was one God for every single phone.  That would mean that God is sitting around, staring at your phone all day, just waiting for you to call, and it never rings.  How sad that must make Him that the only phone He has is never ringing.”

That is the kind of power God has.  God is not limited in the way that we are, frantically trying to manage the mess of the human race as a whole.  Rather, God’s power allows Him to work intimately and intricately with each and every one of us.  So why should we place our hope in the Christ child?  Why should we place all our burdens upon His shoulders?  Because as the reading from Isaiah says, “authority rests upon his shoulders”.  The same shoulders which carry the weight of the world also carry all authority—that is, all power over all things.  This little child is able to change the whole world because He has the authority and power to do so.

Baby-Jesus-in-HostAnd to show in an even more magnificent way this power and authority, God takes on the form of humanity, and is born into the world as a little, defenseless, ordinary looking baby.  To think that the tiny child that Mary held in her arms is the One holding together all of creation, is mind boggling.  This power of the Christ child teaches us one more, crucial thing.  Jesus did not stop at becoming man, but also takes on the form of bread and wine.  The Eucharist is the most humble, unassuming form of Our Lord.  Yet this is our same God, this is that same Jesus who has all authority and power.  Despite the littleness of the Eucharist, He has the power to bring peace, justice, and freedom to our hearts.

Do we really believe this in our own lives and hearts?  Do we doubt that God has this authority to change us?  When we see the little host held up before us, do we see His authority and power?  Do we take hope in the Eucharist, or do we dismiss it as something too little to make a change in our lives?  When I am angry with my family members, do I believe that I can come before the tabernacle and pray, and that God can set me right in my heart?  When I carry my worries about my family and friends to Mass, do I believe that the Eucharist has the power to hear and answer my prayers?  When I think that I am unlovable, do I believe that when I receive the Eucharist at Mass, that the Lord is joined to me in love and holding my heart in His hands?  Though weak in appearance, hope in the Christ child—hope in the Eucharist.  He has the power to work in us, and He continues to work in us.  Trust that He can.  Hope in His power to change your heart.

Merry Christmas

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About Fr. Steve

I am happily a priest of Diocese of London, Ontario, as of April 25, 2015! Hooray!!! Some people are afraid to ask clergy questions sometimes, because they are worried about "what he'll think of me". I am happy to engage in any discussions you might want to have with me about the faith, and trust me, I have heard and probably even lived many of the crazy stories people might share and am not seeking to look down on you, but to help lift you up, wherever you are, to whatever degree you are willing to go. It's about you, and your relationship with God. That is what is most important to me. Since the Lord loves you without qualification, I try to impart the same courtesy.

Posted on December 24, 2012, in Catholic, eucharist, Jesus Christ, Scripture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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