Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Our stable is set up, ready and waiting for the arrival of the Boy King. It will fill up with shepherds, cattle, Mary and Joseph and, lastly, the procession at the beginning of mass on Christmas Eve will bring the child into his birthplace. We shall welcome him into our hearts once more at the beginning of our joy-filled liturgy, and soak in the atmosphere of Christmas.
Twelve days will pass and then we celebrate the arrival of more visitors to the crib, this time from the East. Richly dressed, carrying exotic gifts, wise and powerful, they will kneel before the child, kiss his feet in homage, and praise God for the journey that brought them to see the salvation of all humanity. God’s promise through the prophets to reveal himself to all peoples will be fulfilled in the Journey of the Magi, the following of a star.
This will in turn lead to rejection and hatred. For, the story goes, this revelation, this sharing of the Good News to those outside, will outrage and frighten Herod who will lash out in the slaughter of the innocent. Unable to get what he wants, he will destroy the lives of others.
The cozy, homely scene of the stable, the child, the animals, the shepherds, and kings gathered round in wonder and adoration will be shattered. The Holy Family will flee for their lives, refugees themselves, made strangers by their own people because they welcomed strangers. Ironic, isn’t it?
This is the effect of the Good News. It will lead to division as much as unity because frail, selfish and fearful people will feel threatened by its demands and by others who seem to be enthused by something that they don’t understand or that seems to be mad. Matthew’s account might emphasize the fulfilling of prophecies, but it also shows that when the unexpected happens, it is not always welcome.
Christmas time can bring with it stress as well as joy. We often meet up with people we haven’t seen for a while and spend longer with them than we otherwise would. The Good News is that help is there. Ask for patience, openness and forbearance. Ask for a generous heart; it might surprise you that you probably have one. And pray for those who have no one to welcome them this Christmas.