Do you know that Christmas is not a single day but a season? It is a two (sometimes three) week period in which we enter more deeply into the mystery of the One who came to become one of us, to save us from our sins.
So often Christmas day seems to come and go very quickly, and with it, the spirit of the Christmas season can be lost in the process of cleaning up, finishing leftovers, traveling or returning gifts. There is a religious value to these days after Christmas which we can give ourselves to with simply a little focus. Having prayed that our Lord come to us, we can let the reality of his coming enter more deeply into our daily experience. We do that by savoring the story and letting his being one with us become a more conscious reality as these stories intersect with our daily lives. For example, in the rush of Christmas, I can ask myself if I took time to imagine myself there in the stable, and take it all in, as a personal witness. Did I really listen to what Mary and Joseph said to each other? Did I let myself be moved by how open the shepherds were to this mystery and how transformed they were by it? Did I ask Mary if I could hold her child? We can take the Gospel and let ourselves become a part of the story or let the story become a part of our lives.
The Epiphany is a powerful story according to St. Matthew. While Luke’s account reminds us of the poverty of his coming and his union with the lowly of the earth, in Matthew we can almost hear the drum beats of danger. Herod is out to kill the child. In spite of the cleverness of the Magi to return another way, many innocents are slaughtered.
The Holy Family flees to Egypt and Jesus enters the mystery of his people’s slavery and liberation. Every one of us who has been “trapped” in any way can identify with this story. And, we can let this story enter our lives. Jesus became one with us in all the ways we are not safe or free from fear. Jesus came so that none of us should ever feel alone in whatever has happened to us, however secret, however damaging. This is where we can taste the power of the freedom Jesus brings us in his surrendering to his own mission from his Father. Perhaps, the Feast of the Holy Family will be a time to reach deeper into our desires and to ask for graces for our family.
This Christmas Season culminates in the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It is very consoling to contemplatively imagine the discernment process Jesus went through to decide to leave home and to move down toward the River Jordan where he must have heard that his cousin John was baptizing. Of course, Mary let him go and she blesses him for his mission. What a precious scene to enjoy! And, there at the Jordan, Jesus and John meet again. If John leapt in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, how much more now did his heart soar as Jesus came to assume his role as the one who would free us from our sins. But, first, there had to be this part of the Incarnation and this Epiphany. Here Jesus becomes one of us in a new way. Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21) And there is the great manifestation of God, witnessing to Jesus: My beloved Son; listen to him. We can conclude the Christmas Season asking for the grace to be one with Jesus whose mission from the Father he invites us to share.