Thomas Merton on Christmas

My pastor quoted one of my favorite monastics in his Christmas homily:

The mystery of Christmas therefore lays upon us all a debt and an obligation to the rest of the human race and to the whole created universe. We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged by the greatness of the grace that has been given us to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth. This we will do not only by preaching the glad tidings of his coming, but above all by revealing him in our lives. Christ is born to us in order that he may appear to the whole world through us.

The first time of three I heard this, the first line struck me strongly. First, that Christmas is indeed a mystery. It cannot be deciphered by reading the Bible, recounting stories, or even tapping our own memories. Incarnation continues … in a mysterious way. We are involved.

Next is debt and obligation. That seems a bit strange given the Christmas background. You know: God’s free gift; we can’t earn it. But the soul’s impulse is to respond in love. I think of this as more of a situation of responsibility. The baptized person has standing in the family of God. We think of rights, we Americans. But the other side of that coin is responsibility. As a father I understand that. Some parents focus on rights. The real side of being with children is responsibility. The same is true of a believer.

Christ is born to us in order that he may appear to the whole world through us.

This is the most important thing about Christmas. We provide the embodiment of Christ to others, so the incarnation continues.

Focusing on the manger and its stories is like sitting in front of the tree and receiving all the presents ourselves. Focusing on the giving, the enjoyment of seeing others receive–most will concede that is closer to the spirit of Christmas, even those who are disconnected from Christian faith.

The question continues not just on the day of the nativity, but every day: have we made known Christ’s presence, telling of glad tidings and revealing something of him?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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