The familiar story of the birth of Jesus Christ is filled with stirring images and characters. For the older set, its reading brings back old memories of Christmases past and childhood Nativity plays – sometimes even to the exclusion of the realities of God’s Incarnation.
What is evident about almost every individual involved in the circumstances at the birth of Christ is their incredible obedience to God, and their patient submission to their circumstances. The Mother of God humbly accepts the burdens of childbearing without an earthly father; the Righteous Joseph becomes her caretaker, despite gnawing fears about the Child’s patrimony; the Wise Men make an impossible journey and flee the dangers of King Herod’s wrath, all because God revealed to them that it must be so.
The Gospel instructs us that the crosses of everyday life are for our salvation, yet unlike the holy people surrounding Christ’s Nativity, too often, we flee from submission to them. We cut ourselves off from people who annoy us, rather than patiently bear their presence. We seek out consolation – and escape – from daily stresses in our drug of choice – alcohol, shopping, entertainment, cannabis, or something else. In the process, we make every excuse to avoid submitting to the lessons Christ attempts to teach our soul, to help us grow up, out of spiritual immaturity. Facing anything that demands something from us, we panic and run, or turn and try to destroy it – just like Herod did to Christ.
The path to deliverance from our passions unto salvation will never be comfy – never, ever. The account of Christ’s birth should remind us that salvation is not found at a posh resort, but rather, in the uncomfortable surroundings of a stable, seeking shelter from those who hate us. While we might celebrate Christmas in comfort, Christ’s Nativity tells us salvation only begins where that comfort ends.