'The Annunciation' by Salomon Koninck (Konstnär, 1609-1656) Amsterdam, Nederland. Wikimedia Commons

Cathy Majtenyi: Christmas sets the tone for our faith journey

  • December 21, 2019

As Catholics, we all know Christ is the reason for the season. We try our best not to let the materialism of the moment eclipse the birth of Christ. Many of us manage to carve out time to attend midnight Mass and even participate in Advent prayers and events.

We celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ entry into the world as a baby. It’s a happy time, a season of great joy and optimism.

It’s also an opportunity for us to discern how the events of Christmas provide a model for our faith journey and what a truly profound gift Jesus Christ is to us.

The Christmas account begins with the angel Gabriel visiting Mary with great news: “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). 

Gabriel proceeds to describe the miracle of Jesus’ conception and the part Mary will play to bring Christ to birth. Naturally, Mary has questions: How can this happen, given my circumstances? Why me? 

Like Mary, we are favoured by God, who loves us deeply and has created each of us with a specific role to play in building His Kingdom. We ask the same questions as Mary did. And the answer is the same for us, too: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This enables us to bring Christ to birth in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Fast forward 33 years: Jesus gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). We can turn to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, guidance and power. 

How often do we do this? How often do we ignore or deny God’s plan for our lives because we allow our circumstances to dictate what is, or isn’t, possible? How much do we rely on our own efforts rather than on the power of the Most High?

Mary models for us her humble “yes,” despite her doubts and the potential loss of her fiancé, reputation and maybe even her life in being a pregnant, unwed woman in the society of the day. Are we willing to be inconvenienced for God’s purposes?

Mary then goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. It’s a powerful shared testimony of what God has done in their lives and an affirmation of each other’s faith journey: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45). 

How many times do we support and encourage our fellow Catholics, especially during doubts or struggles, or seek such support when we’re discouraged? How often do we build up the Church through ministry and service? 

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth characterize how the world treats people according to their status. 

There’s no room in the inn, literally and figuratively, for two poor strangers clearly in distress. Later, the trio becomes a refugee family when they flee to Egypt.

The scene is set for Jesus’ many teachings on the marginalized. He speaks from lived experience. This enables us to see Jesus in today’s poor, lowly, refugee child and all those around us who are vulnerable. How do we treat such people? Are we supplementing our faith with works?

The shepherds were drawn to the manger by the angel and, in popular depictions, the brightness of a shining star. How often do we share the Gospel with others, especially non-Christians or lapsed Catholics? Are our lives shining examples of Gospel values that will attract others to Christ?

At Christmas, let’s pay close attention to the Gospel narratives and discern for ourselves what God is trying to teach us about the birth of His Son and how we can use this to guide our own faith journey.

Let’s view the birth of Christ not merely as a one-time event but as the beginning of a life filled with teachings, miracles and the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Jesus, our Saviour, is the greatest gift given freely to us — if we receive it.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer who specializes in research at an Ontario university.)

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