This stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y., depicts Jesus in a manger surrounded by Mary, Joseph and three shepherds. Jesus spent his entire life with those on the margins, so it was no accident that a group of sheep watchers got the first peek at God's arrival. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Charles Lewis: Christ: the greatest gift we’ll ever receive

  • December 15, 2021

At the risk of being sentimental I want to talk about the greatest gift we receive at Christmas. That gift is Christ … and our faith in Him.

It’s long been a mystery to me why some of us have faith and some don’t. I can look back to when I had no faith, when I was completely clueless, and mark the point when faith became real. But when I think back before that I can’t understand how faith eluded me. I can’t even imagine life without my belief in the Saviour of the world.

It’s as if my personal history involved two people.

Think about the season we are in. Home after home will put up trees, put wreaths on door and, of course, pile up gifts underneath those trees.

Yet many of those celebrating Christmas will be doing it out of a secular tradition. All there is to life is what can be touched and seen. They see no reason to live under obedience to an invisible deity. They will acknowledge the time of year is special, may even feel a greater love of those around them, but it will not be religious.

They may ask: Why can’t I be good without God? Many of them are good … even saintly.

Somewhere along the way, for myriad reasons, Christmas lost Christ for these people. It’s not that they are anti-religious; it’s more like profound indifference.

I don’t mock these people. Never would I do such a thing. Many of them are better people than those who are religious. I have friends that have no interest in faith and yet they are the most wonderful people I know. One was born on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the word irony doesn’t come close to that juxtaposition. Yet, he would cut off his right arm if you needed it. He always looks out for his friends. He cares deeply about his parents. But religion is simply not part of his makeup.

Then there are those of us who look to the birth of Christ as the greatest event in human history. It’s part of the core of our being. We walk in His shadow. We love Mary like she was our own mother. We honour Joseph for his fidelity. We see in the New Testament not a story about a prophet or some wise man but the story of God coming to save us from ourselves and point us to a way to the beatific vision.

When we celebrate Christmas we see God being born in a barn in a remote corner of the world. The story is beautiful and confounding because if you made it up no one would believe it. To many it doesn’t make sense and if we’re honest we can acknowledge that on a completely rational level it doesn’t.

But to those of us who have the gift of faith it is utterly real. It is the essence of our joy and hope.

The best explanation I can come up with is there was something that happened in each of us that suddenly alerted us to the Christ and all His teachings were true. We realized that faith is not without reason but stronger than reason.

Reason can’t explain the Trinity or the Virgin Birth or the Immaculate Conception. And yet to those of us with faith these are as real as everything we see and touch around us.

I don’t think this means that we are special. But for some reason in God’s vast plan some are given faith as a gift and some not. It doesn’t mean that the souls of those who lack faith are somehow doomed. I believe God’s mercy and love is too grand for us to restrict it.

Maybe those of us with faith are here to set an example. To fill in love where love is missing. With the gift comes a responsibility. And that responsibility can at times be difficult.

Our faith is the guiding light that leads us from here to eternity. It tells us that this is not all there is. That the baby in a manger 2,000 years ago was the greatest gift the world has ever known. What a joy to share in that belief.

How those gifts under the tree pale in comparison.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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