Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas 2011, Shaftesbury

I had a little crisis this week. I was putting up Christmas decorations in the presbytery, and I was assembling all the pieces of the crib set that I have. I put out the shepherds, the donkey, the cow, some sheep, the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph. And that's when I realised my problem: I couldn't find the baby Jesus. I had everything else right about the crib scene, but no Jesus!
And it struck me that this is a perfect image of what all the frantic busyness of Christmas can be like if we don't have Jesus -without Jesus everything else is there, but it's lacking the key thing, and without Him it's empty, without Him it's just hard work

If we think for a moment about that first crib scene in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Without Jesus, there would be nothing to make it different from any other stable. It may well have been cold, damp, smelly, and dark.
But with Jesus present there the scene was utterly transformed. Christmas cards rightly show us images of light radiating from the child Jesus, radiating to CHANGE that crib scene.
If we think of St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, having struggled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, having been offered no room at the inn, and yet, theirs was not a labour without reward -they had Jesus, the Messiah, God Himself among them.
Our Christian faith tells us that the Lord God entered this world, was born as a weak child in this world, in order to transform this world, transform our lives in this world, transform our lives by being WITH us in this world.

But, back to life without Jesus, to the crib without Jesus:
Life, as we all know, has plenty of difficulties, plenty of work, plenty of busyness. But the question that surely arises in thinking of life with or without Jesus, must surely be, amid all the busyness of life is there a purpose? Is there a direction? Is there a goal?
Life without Jesus can easily be work without a reward, labour without rest, and be a life where we feel left alone with our problems.
This week I've had a number of moments where my life has felt like that empty crib scene. I've had lots of labour, lots of building of ‘the crib’, but I frequently had moments when I had forgotten what this busyness is truly aiming for, namely, to bring Jesus here.
And I've had to periodically stop myself, and refocus myself.

When we refocus ourselves on Jesus then we are refocusing on the One who is our companion in our difficulties, who is our light in darkness, and our strength in weakness.
So often when we feel alone it's because we forgotten that He is with us.
So often when we feel that we are busy with no purpose it is because we forgotten to offer our work and our labour and our strife to Him.
Even today, amidst joyful Christmas celebrations, is Jesus there?
Even today, when the turkey is finished, and the dishes are being washed, is Jesus there?
If I offer my joys to Jesus then my joys are increased because they are united with their ultimate source.
If I offer my work to Jesus then my burden is lightened because it carried with Him.
So let's remember to keep Jesus in the ‘crib’ of our lives.

Back to my crib scene decorations in the presbytery, I eventually found the baby Jesus. It turned out that He was there all along, I just hadn't seen Him. If we want to get the most out of Christmas, then let’s not forget Him.

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