A Christmas gift of hope
December 21, 2009
by Fr. Tom Balluff, St. Mary’s of Czestochowa, Delano

Advent season is about preparing, getting ready for the visitation of our God to poor humanity as the little baby at Bethlehem in the person of Jesus.

We spend the four weeks of Advent reflecting, praying as St. John the Baptist shows us through his good example and witness, and living an unselfish lifestyle focused on self-denial and penance. We are all called to die to our own preferences, tastes, disordered inclinations, to our sinfulness, to anything and everything that distracts us or leads away from our God in order to open our hearts to this beautiful moment when God, Himself, is born into this world.

At Christmas, we hear about angels announcing the little babe’s arrival to the shepherds out in the field. Mary and Joseph surround the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger with an almost perfect love.

The stable is cold and probably dirty and smelly, full of straw and various animals – remember there was no room for them at the inn. The setting is perfect for how God wants to arrive, in the darkness and cold of night, to give warmth to a world that has lost its way, and to show a desire for the simplicity found in the poor.

Jesus is to be a king, the King of the Universe, and yet, He will come to reveal a God that loves the poor and desires to be poor when among us. Jesus will not have many things. He will have no material possessions and no place to lay his head. He has come to be one of us, to walk and talk with us, showing an image of the heavenly Father that is compassionate and merciful, that is concerned with our difficulties and problems, with our daily issues, and who wants to be our intimate friend. Jesus comes not to be served, but to serve as a humble servant.

The big picture, as I see it, is that our God chooses to come and be with us at Christmas time, ushering in fulfillment of all of our hopes and dreams. Our Lord and God comes to us in a very humble setting, revealing a God that is so great in magnitude that an attitude to receive this beautiful blessing needs to be one of littleness and nothingness. The poor shepherds are the first to be called to receive Him.

Jesus ultimately will save us from our sins, and offers to each of us the greatest gift possible, that of eternal life.

God visits us, not to condemn us, but rather to save us. The heart of the law is mercy; however, there is a justice to God and consequences to our lives here in this world. And yet, Jesus reveals to us a God that loves us infinitely and incomprehensibly.

Our true home lies in heaven with our Lord, our Lady, the angels and saints, and all of the elect. This world is only a temporary place where we work out our salvation. It is filled with trial and tribulation, with obstacles, problems and difficulties, but also deep peace and joy for those open to Him. All of this is only to make our faith stronger.

God cares very much about each and every one of us and wants us all to share with him the joy of heaven. Let the end of this year be the beginning of a deeper faith life, filled with conversion and friendship with our God, especially as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!