We have to be quite agile at this time of the year as we read the Scriptures, able to jog back and forth between the texts that chronicle events in the “infancy narratives” and those that speak of the “public life” of Jesus. Today, one day after we read stories of the shepherds and angels singing and adoring at the manger, we hear about St. Stephen, chosen by the apostles to serve the widows and orphans in the fast-growing community of Christ’s disciples. Two days from now we will be back in Matthew’s gospel hearing about all the babies that Herod ordered killed so he would be assured that Jesus, the newborn king, would not be around to usurp his title and power.
These juxtaposed texts seem to be a good example of how Scripture calls us to suspend our logical thinking about the events of our heritage in order to enter the realm of the “here and now” and the “not yet.” While we are actually able to tell the story of Jesus in a linear fashion, regardless of the non-linearity of the above examples, we have to hold all the pieces of his incarnation that can only be grasped by faith in order to get the whole picture, and, truth be told, it can never be fully understood from a human perspective. We need to catch deeper meanings from the actions and words of Jesus in the gospels, delving into the underlying messages with openness to mystery.
We could say that if Christmas is just a marking of the entrance of Jesus into time, an event 2,000 years distant from us, it is difficult to see the cataclysmic relevance that we give to the event. As we come to understand more and more deeply that our own “incarnation” is connected to the Christ event, however, it begins to make more sense. We talk about Christ being “born in us” at Christmas. As we develop the capacity to live more and more in the Spirit that Christ promised as remaining with us, the need for explanation is subsumed into a new reality where the only “calendar” is love.
This is not something that we grasp on the first try. It is a message for a lifetime: “the way, the truth and the life” that Jesus came to know about himself and which must be realized in us one day – one step – at a time. This is the renewal that Christmas offers us and the work of the vision starts again today.