T. S. Eliot, in his work “The Journey Of The Magi,” tells us:
“A cold coming we had of it.
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp.
The very dead of winter.”
These lines from Eliot might well be applied to the readings about the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. Christ had a cold coming. King Ahaz wanted nothing to do with the angel who announced that “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.”
In the second reading, Christ had a cold coming into the heart of Paul who persecuted Jesus in Christians before his conversion.
In the Gospel, the angel’s announcement to Joseph certainly did not fit into his future plans for Mary, his beloved.
Yet, Christ is at His best when overcoming the opposition of sinful humanity.
In the first reading, the angel suggests to Ahaz that he ask for a sign that would confirm earlier promises to the Davidic dynasty, of which he is the present heir. He chooses not to trust God’s promises and feigns religious piety by saying he will not tempt God.
God doesn’t give in to defeat. Even if Ahaz will not ask for a sign, God will give a sign for all people: “The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and name Him Emmanuel.” God chooses not to let Ahaz’s negativity stand in the way of His plans for the redemption of mankind. In Ahaz, Christ had a cold coming.
In the second reading we have Paul, in whom Christ has overcome a very violent opposition, telling us that Christ called him “to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God, which He promised previously through His prophets in the holy Scriptures…” Paul says, “Through Him we receive the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of His name, among the Gentiles…”
Having overcome Paul’s persecution of His followers, He uses Paul to bring others into obedience to Christ’s Gospel. Christ moves His kingdom forward, through all opposition and sin. Conversions follow conversions and Christ moves forward in history, redeeming a people “to be His very own.”
In the Gospel, we hear the humble beginnings of our Savior’s coming. He is already alive in the womb of Mary, unknown to Joseph until the angel brings him the news in a dream. Was this a pleasant dream or was it a nightmare? You make the call. I venture to suggest that it was a nightmare until processed by grace! Isn’t that the way Jesus works in our lives? At first, we rebel. Finally, we surrender to receive His peace.
So often our first reaction to God’s unexpected call to us is that of fear. We are afraid of what God asks of us. So was Joseph. The angel said to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
If I had been in Joseph’s place, I might have said: “Any other good news you want to share with me before I finish my night’s sleep?” Isn’t God’s way great? He does not take away our humanity. He simply challenges it with His word. His word is fruitful but at first painful.
That is what the coming of Jesus is all about in our lives. The word of God challenges our humanity. We don’t want God’s interference in our lives, and yet He freely interferes with our plans because He knows that His plan for our eternal salvation is the greatest.
As we prepare to celebrate His birth on Christmas, it might be well to enter into the crib of our heart and welcome Him and His loving plan for our lives. He is the small child within, trying to get our attention through movements of grace, of inspiration, and inclinations to do good. Let us pay attention to the inclinations He gives us.
So, what happens when a homeless person asks us for help? This homeless person isn’t asking to move in with us, only for some assistance. Can we get in tune with the Christ child within us? What happens when someone really injures our good name and our feelings? Do we take some quiet time to consult the Child within, or do we respond in kind, in an unkind and aggressive manner?
What happens inside when we give into our proclivity to sin? Do we then make matters worse by giving in to the Accuser of the Brethren in condemning ourselves, or do we get in touch with the Savior within, inviting His love into our negative feelings of self-loathing?
Christ was born for sinners like us. He can handle any sin, but He can’t help us if we choose to refuse His help!
This is where friendship with Christ makes such a big difference. The more we develop an intimacy for the Christ within, coming alive, the more we will be inclined to say no to temptations. The more we develop daily an intimacy with Him within, the more we will find ourselves doing good deeds for others.
Christmas is all about celebrating Christ coming alive within us!