I have already mentioned that Wednesday evening, one of the short talks will discuss fasting. That talk will be given by Larry Carcoana, our vice president and a founding member of our parish. A related talk will be a synopsis of the life of St. Nicholas, given by our choir director, Jason Kuntz. Both talks should be good and helpful as reflections on this time of year, prior to Christmas.
The third talk will be given by me and will briefly look at the relationship between Jesus’ birth and the Scriptures (primarily the “Old” Testament) in our Christmas hymnography. I won’t cover the talk here, now, but I thought I would take a moment to highlight it because it is an aspect of Jesus’ life that we often forget about.
It is easy to see how one can forget about it, what with elves living in the frozen north and making toys and flying reindeer. Those are very fanciful characters! Yet, we also often forget about the connection even in explicitly Christian settings, and that is the more troubling. I think we’ve long since known a person may be an atheist and yet celebrate Christmas in some sort of way (just focus on “Santa”–forget it means “saint”–try not to shoot flying deer for dinner, and have presents under a tree–again making sure not to interpret the tree’s symbolism beyond “spring’s around the corner”). What we might not as readily realize is that we can too easily show up at church for a Christmas pageant and leave with little more than a reminder that the New Testament mentions that he was born. More likely, we remember how the kids behaved up there. You know, little “Jimmy” was picking his nose and sally dropped “the baby Jesus.” Those moments are good and not to be dismissed, but if not taken any deeper, distract from a central reality: Jesus’ birth, according to the early Church, was something spoken about already in the Scriptures. God had already placed the events in Scriptures–from Bethlehem being mentioned by the prophet Micah to Jesus being the Sun of Righteousness mentioned by Malachi.
Of course, Jews in late antiquity thought Christians were crazy to read such things into the Scriptures. Christians, on the other hand, believed Jesus was the Christ and as such, the key that unlocked the proper reading of the Scriptures. In that way, what we celebrate on Christmas is nothing less than an eternally willed desire on God’s part to unite humanity to himself in a very special way. Because of our sins, that union also bring healing, but even had we not sinned, that union would bring about a fuller expression of what it means to be human.
As we journey forward in the Nativity Fast (or Advent, if you will), let us not forget that we are journeying to a scene of God’s love for us. For Jesus came into the world because he the Son of God incarnate, the Way to union with God the Father and in response to our sins, he is the crucified and risen one. That is who we celebrate.