When a husband and wife become parents for the first time the experience is always disruptive, and it involves a completely new routine both by day and by night. But, more importantly, it means that two people who previously looked primarily to one another now look to a third person. So there is not only a change in routine but also a change in outlook.
Today the human family celebrates the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Before Our Lord’s birth, men and women had been living primarily for one another. But with the birth of the Son of God our whole outlook is changed. Just as the first child in the human family draws the attention of its parents so the birth of the Son of God attracts the attention of the whole human family.
And so today is a happy event for everyone. This is why we celebrate Our Lord’s birth with such great solemnity and joy. Today is the birthday of the first child of the human race. Yet it would be foolish for us to pretend that this joy doesn’t bring its demands. Our comfortable routine is bound to be upset. When we start to attend to Christ the experience is always disruptive and life changing. Just as new parents find that their whole way of life changes, so we too, discover that Christ’s birth changes us.
But what kind of change is this? What kind of difference does Our Lord’s birth make? Well, it’s the difference between the joy of living and caring for ourselves and the joy of caring and living for another. The first brings pleasure but the pleasure is short-lived and has no future. The second, despite its inevitable discomforts, is a true joy and is eternal.
You may have heard about the university professor who trained some of his students to adjust to the demands of family life by making each student carry around an egg with them wherever they went. If, even for one moment they forgot about the egg they had to return to the professor for a new one. It proved to be an effective way of teaching the kind of adjustment needed for the constant responsibility of needing to care for another. It demanded a totally different way of living. In a similar way, when we have learned to adjust to the birth of Christ in the world and to attend to him so that we live, not for ourselves but for others, we can begin to enjoy an eternal happiness.
Right at the beginning of his Gospel, Saint John expresses this truth clearly, he says: To all who did accept Jesus Christ, he gave power to become children of God. When we look at the image of Our Lord in the crib and accept him into our hearts we are changed: our hearts are softened and we become like him.
The birth of Jesus Christ, then, means that we start caring for him. He comes to us, we believe, in those who are most like him: in the poorest, in the weakest, in those who suffer the most. And these are the very people who are most likely to disrupt our daily routine. They are the people who are going to change us as they draw from us the love of God that we experience this Christmas.
And so, as we kneel before the crib, we are to show to others the glory of God that we have seen. We are to reflect God’s glory in which we have shared.
The Letter to the Hebrews explains that Jesus is ‘the perfect copy of God’s nature’. The word used in Greek means ‘impression’. Jesus is like the impression that an old fashioned seal leaves on the wax. It reproduces exactly the shape of the seal and in the same way Jesus is the exact image and expression of the Father. As we ask ourselves what impression we have allowed the crib to make on us we are to remember that in a similar way we too are to be images and the expressions of God’s love.
May the glory of Christ shine in us so that our lives may disrupt the routine of a world that largely ignores him. As we shake up mankind may the hearts of men and women everywhere be changed and softened so that all people may celebrate Christmas with hearts and minds renewed.