January 2, 2016

Nativity: January 2, 2016


"behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem" (Matthew 2:1)

Once “the shepherds returned” to their flocks, Mary and Joseph once again enjoyed the quiet intimacy of the nativity. (Luke 2:20) There, wrapped in contemplation, Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) The atmosphere in the nativity is filled with joy. Resting in silent joy, Joseph embraces Mary as Mary cradles her infant son. Unknown to them more visitors prepare to visit. The Magi “from the east” are on their way to Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1)

Pope Benedict XVI writes: “we have to ask what sort of people they were … Magi are understood to be members of the Persian priestly caste. In Hellenistic culture they were regarded as ‘rulers of a distinctive religion’ … they were nevertheless custodians of religious and philosophical knowledge that had developed in that area and continued to be cultivated there. … The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him.” [15]

We are all searching for something. Actually, we are all searching for someone. Whether we know it or not, deep within us all is an “inner aspiration of the human spirit”. We are looking. We are longing. We are searching. “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God.” [16] “Man is in search of God. In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to man’s essential search for God.” [17]

The Magi “represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ.” We all want something. Yes, we all want someone. The Magi know something has happened, something so profound that life will never be the same again. They set on a journey because they have to see it; they have to see Him; they have to see this person who will change their life, and guide life of every human being. Merry Christmas. I mean that; Merry Christmas … especially today. Today is perhaps the most important day of the liturgical Christmas season. Today is perhaps the most important day of your life. Why? Today is the day we all “go back” to “real life.” The holidays are over. December 25th has past us. New Year’s Day is gone.

Today, humanity “goes back” to that which seems “ordinary”. We have to go back to work. We have to go back to school. We have to go back to “real life”. The temptation is to go back to your life as it was before Christmas. The temptation is to sentimentalize the “holidays” and to leave the reality of Christmas behind. Once Christmas happened, Mary could not ever go back to “real life”. Joseph could never go back to “real life”. Even the Magi, who had not yet met Jesus, knew that their “real life” would never be the same. Listen to me: you cannot “go back” to your life as it was before Christmas. Mary’s “real life” was forever changed by Christ. The infant was reality. Jesus was real life. The baby was now the center of Mary’s life. Joseph’s “real life” was forever changed by Christ. He was the center of Joseph’s life. The Magi are journeying. What they will find will change their life forever too.

Your life is different. Your life has been changed. Christmas isn’t about a simple baby. Christmas is about “the desire for God written in the human heart.” Christmas is about your “desire for the one who calls [you] into existence.” You no longer have to be the center of your life. The exhausting pursuit of the next holiday no longer has to be the center of your life. The “world’s mangers” no longer have to be the center of your life.

You are searching. But, you must search within. Today, we, like the Magi, must make the choice to stay on the pilgrimage. Today, we must make the life altering decision that we will no longer be the center of our life.

Merry Christmas. Everyday … forever … Merry Christmas. Are you ready to make Christ the center of your life?

For your prayer

The Magi were more than likely familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament. The Magi would have been familiar with the Old Testament prophets and prophecies. Imagine how the Magi would have reflected upon the words of the prophet Micah. Begin by slowly reading Micah 5:1-4a. Read it a few times. Imagine the Magi discussing this prophecy as they travel. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Matthew 2:1. Be in the scene. . Be with the Magi as they travel. What are they discussing? What are they looking for? Why are they traveling?

Today's prayer

“Father, help me to not take Christmas for granted. Help you live in the nativity. I beg you, even with all my resistance, to help me make Jesus the center of my life.”

[15] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pgs. 92; 94; 97
[16] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 27
[17] Ibid., no. 2566

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2012. Expressed written permission required for duplication.