Merry Christmas!

12-25-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Chris Axline

Christ is born to save us and we are filled with joy. I pray that Christmas may fill you with great joy and that your celebrations with family and friends may be safe and life giving. Today God’s great gift to us is made manifest as we now can see Him face to face in Christ made flesh. We now join Mary in that beautiful gaze on her newborn son; a look of tenderness and love that we never want to end as God looks back at us. How beautiful and tender a gaze to look into the eyes of the newborn Christ and see God staring back. Christ already makes a gift of Himself to us as He enters into our brokenness and sin in order to set us free.

What draws my reflection and prayer about Christ’s birth is the desire with which He is born. His desire to be so close, so intimately a part of our life that He becomes one of us. This is not the action of a God who does not care about us or leaves us to our own fate. It is the action of a Father who will stop at nothing to save His children. So great is His love for me, for you, that He runs after us in order to meet us in our brokenness and then lift us out of that same brokenness and into His eternal Love. How then do we acknowledge this gift? This gift is made with a love beyond all telling and invites a reciprocal gift; a gift of ourselves as we enter into a relationship with Him. Any relationship takes work (spousal, fraternal, professional, etc.) and our relationship with Christ is no different. It too requires time and sacrifice in order to stay healthy.

Thus, in order to enter more fully into this relationship with Christ we first have to seek Him out, not just learning about Him like what we might read about in a biography of any person; but rather, seeking to know Him as a person much like we know our family members, friends and spouses. In other words, we should strive not just to know about Jesus but to know Jesus and how He works in our daily life.

Sometimes though, God’s work in our life can be easily missed. For example, in Luke's account of Jesus' birth we hear that there was “no room for them in the inn.” What does this mean? As a simple answer we could say that nobody wanted to make room for the Holy Family, there was a lack of charity. Their own daily business took greater priority and they missed the chance to welcome Christ and the Holy Family into their home. We can learn a great deal from those who had no room. It is easy to get distracted and miss what God is doing or even where He is in our day to life. However, the Church gives us powerful tools of grace which we can use to make sure that there is room in the inn.

First and foremost is through our prayer and sacramental life. Do I attend Mass each week? Do I spend time with Him each day in prayer? Do I confess my sins regularly? All of these require an intentional investment of our time, an investment which also gives us something tangible which we can refer back to and delight in the fact that we did make room for the Lord today.

A second tool of grace is study: do I learn about my faith? There is a vast selection of resources, bible studies, books, commentaries, and podcasts that help us learn more about our faith; do we utilize them? This year I have enjoyed Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a year podcast, hearing and reading these scripture stories for 20 minutes each day has been amazing at making connections and collating figures and events in Scripture. Hopefully you have heard the fruits of some of these reflections in my preaching!

Lastly, do not be afraid of your faith and give witness to it daily! Do your coworkers or close friends even know you are Catholic? Our witness does not need to be perfect, but it does need to be persistent. This means we get back up when/if we fall (through the sacramental habits mentioned above) and resolve to live a life that points towards Christ in all that I say, think, and do. Christ came to be the Lord of every part of our life. Is there a part that we hide from Him? What parts of our lives need work in order to more perfectly conform to Christ? Does He inspire every action we perform, every thought that we think, or every word that we speak? This is the great gift of Christmas, Christ as part of our life. He gifts Himself in order to set us free. Let us resolve to gift ourselves back to Him so that we can live in that freedom! Merry Christmas and God bless you,