The liturgical readings for the Christmas season are rich with imagery. They begin with Jesus’s genealogy, his connection with the Jewish people, and continuing with Joseph being reassured about Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus’s birth and the visit by the shepherds, and finally the fleeing into Egypt. Only when we come to Christmas Day do the readings reflect on the purpose of these events.
Interestingly, the reflection does not mention shopping or any of the commercial mania generated by the media. Instead, we hear of Jesus being sent to be the light and life of the world so that we might become children of God. John the Baptist came to prepare the way to experience this light and life and gives an example by being one who points to Jesus. To live in the light and experience the divine life in our lives, we, like John, are called to make God the center of our life.
This, of course, is easier said than done, for there are major obstacles. Some of the more injurious images of God are images that see God as the one who never lets anything bad happen to us, also known as the Great Mother in the Sky, or the image that portrays God as the one who gives us whatever we want. And, finally, the image of God as the old man with a big stick who is just waiting to catch us doing something wrong. While these images may be laughable, they operate in our life when we pray to pass the exam we have not studied for, or when we believe we can do whatever we want and there will not be any consequences, or that God is intent on making our life miserable with the list of all the things we cannot do. All of these beliefs cloud our vision of God, and we need to let go of them in order to experience the gift of Christmas, when we are once again reminded that it is the faith of the little child who goes about life without anger, prejudice, or blindness. This little child accepts God, people, and situations as they are, not as we would like them to be.
The promise is that God is there to be at our side, to be the light in our life.