A Messy Christmas – Joel Liwanag, SJ


John 1:1-18, Solemnity of the Birth of our Lord

As a way of preparing myself for Christmas, I once tried to contemplate the nativity scene following the prayer method proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. Using the power of my imagination, I began by trying to feel the cool gentle breeze of that holy night. I then listened to the sweet cry of the Christ Child as I quietly gazed at His face, something that gave me a deep sense of serenity and peace. Everything changed, however, when I started to use my sense of smell. As I imagined the unpleasant scent of dung, I saw that I was in a place where animals were kept. It was dirty and in disarray, a far cry from the picture-perfect scene we often find in Christmas belens. I focused my gaze on Mary and Joseph and found both of them looking very tired. It was becoming colder and colder, and the cry of the Baby Jesus was becoming louder and louder. Entering more deeply into my contemplation, I told myself, “What a mess this Christmas is!”

But isn’t this what Christmas is all about? Isn’t Christmas about God finding a home in our mess? Indeed, when God chose to enter our world, He humbled Himself and became one with us, finding His dwelling among us in the midst of the mess we are in. He was not satisfied with simply seeing this mess from a distance. He wanted to experience it Himself and embrace it fully. It is no surprise then that in the end, He even allowed Himself to suffer the messiest of deaths, death on a cross.

Given what’s happening in our world and in our country today, I can’t help but remind myself that this is the mess that God has chosen to embrace. This is the mess He has chosen to enter—the mess of suffering, the mess of injustice, the mess of death. When the Word became flesh, God embraced the mess of humanity, and He continues to do so today.

In our personal life, the same can be said: God embraces our mess. Are you in the middle of a mess right now? Do you find yourself burdened because of this mess you are in? Remind yourself that God is with you and that He understands what you are going through because He Himself had gone through such a mess. Many times, we hide our mess from the Lord.

We prefer to sweep it under the rug. We’d rather not talk to Him about it. This Christmas, as we celebrate God’s coming into the world, it is good to be open to the Lord. Let us welcome Him into our mess. Let us talk to Him about it. Let us allow Him to enter our messy lives.

The good news of Jesus’ coming, however, does not stop with Him embracing our mess. Comforting as this already is, Jesus offers us much more. When He entered our world, He came not only to embrace our mess, but also to transform it, to bring order to it. This is alluded to in the restoration of Zion that the prophet Isaiah speaks of in the first reading, and in the saving power of God that today’s responsorial psalm proclaims. Indeed, our God is a God who has the power to transform us, the power to bring order to our mess.

The mystery of the incarnation, therefore, is not just about God allowing Himself to become one with us. It is also about God allowing us to become one with Him. By sharing in our humanity, He has opened the door for us to share in His divinity. By being born into our world, He has provided a way for us to become children of God. By entering into our mess, He has shown us the path towards radical transformation. The question, however, is, “Are we willing to take His offer?” Those among us who are embroiled in the mess of sin, for instance, must ask ourselves, “Will we allow his mercy to penetrate into our hearts? Will we humble ourselves and receive His forgiveness? Will we allow His transforming love to change us?”

This Christmas season, let us welcome Jesus into the mess of our life. Let us allow Him to embrace it. Let us allow Him to transform it. Let us allow Him to find a home in our mess.

*image from the Internet but colored by me!


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