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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Merry Christmas 2014

The Mystery of the Lord's coming is drawn near to us today and tonight we begin to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a whole Octave of great joy even as it is also a solidarity with hearts in great sorrow. Christmas is dwelling in the mystery of the hushed silence of an inexhaustible love. It is all about being vulnerable to divine wonder. To celebrate Christmas means the readiness to fall in adoration before the mystery of the Lord come into our very flesh, to be present in the midst of not only our joys but especially our trials.

Prayer at Christmas is always a celebration of the victory of solidarity over alienation. It is the decision to believe that God's love is greater than our own misery. It is to choose to have joy over the fact that our mistakes do not define us, but God's mercy does.

With this coming of God into human history, no one suffers alone in their personal history. He is with us, each and everyone, and all of us together. Nothing can separate us from His love. Even in the face of catastrophic failure and overwhelming evil, He does not forsake or abandon, but remains through it all. Embracing our poverty (spiritual and physical), He dwells with us, vulnerable in our own vulnerability.

This is not a sentimental thought but a spiritual reality that makes all the difference. This abiding presence is what gives us the courage to pray. When the Living God learned to cry as an infant, we learned to cry to God. Our sorrows became His, and His joys became ours. Christmas is a mystery of great prayer—where the prayer of God and the prayer of humanity coincide.

Prayer and action are joined in Christmas. We must bind our hearts with all those whose families were affected by the violent protests and senseless killings across the United States, and the many more families around the world who also have been robbed of any sense of security or safety. We cannot be indifferent to the Christians who do not have the freedom to celebrate Christmas in the open and who are refugees, homeless and hungry, who have suffered great distress, even loss of life. During this Christmas, my own heart remembers a young mother and her child, parishioners of Saint James Parish in Redondo Beach who were killed coming out of Church after a Christmas pageant.

Our Christian faith does not close its eyes to these sorrows—it speaks a word of hope into them, even when that word can be nothing more than a cry of the heart. Our hearts are guided by a star when we dare to pray once again in a world filled with so much ambiguity and darkness. As our prayer searches the face of the child Jesus, we know it is the saving presence of God alone that gives the strength our faith requires.

Light shines in the darkness as unvanquished now as it did in that stable in a backward village at the outer edges of the Roman Empire. This light shines for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the persecuted, the rejected, the abandoned, the naked, the homeless, the sorrowing, the hungry and the thirsty. In so far as we bind ourselves to such as these in a solidarity of love, friendship, and prayer, the joy of this light shines for us as well. It is time for us to allow the divine light of Christ Jesus to shine in our union of love and prayer this Christmas to the wonderment of the world. It is time to find the courage to be joyful once again. It is time to begin to pray!

For those who visit this blog and find encouragement to pray, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas for you and your families. Thank you for making space for God in your lives and in your hearts. Thank you for your dedication to prayer. To you it may seem insignificant, but the sacrifice of devotion that you offer is something beautiful and needed in the world today. In some way, as the mystery of Christ's birth is announced again in the prayers of the Church, we also draw close to one another through prayer. Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, draws us and binds us through prayer in a web of grace, divine love and friendship.

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