A story of faith


19 Dec 2022

The Christmas story adds wonder to the ordinary, hope to weariness, and possibility to routine.

Some years we need to remind ourselves that the eating, drinking, family gathering, present giving and receiving, and rush are not all that there is to Christmas.

The Christian stories of Jesus’ birth take us into a joyful event, but also into the harsher realities of taxation, forced travel, homelessness, flight from a murderous king, refugee life and the shadow of a future life that will end with execution. It also takes us into the illnesses and loss that mark our own families, and into the lives of people in our own society who are impoverished and ill-treated.

This Christmas time, however, we don’t need reminding of harder times. Harsh realities are part of our everyday lives. Taxation, the reality and threat of homelessness, inflation, people fleeing from Ukraine, the threat of war, of dereliction before climate change, and the certainty of harder times next year, are all inescapable parts of our world. The feasting, gathering and gift giving of Christmas will remind us of the need to encourage a hope of life beyond its present restrictions and threats. We need assurance that our hopes are not illusory, but are real.

The stories of Jesus’ birth tell us that our human life is not a farce, not a tragedy nor meaningless but is a comedy that takes us through pain, dislocation and grief to laughter and celebration. They are stories of a world that is a gift, of a God who is love, of political chaos and disruption that do not have the last word, of a murderous king stared down by babies, of foreigners and shepherds who are wiser than the local experts, of a paddock lean-to that will become remembered longer than a king’s palace.

They are stories about laughter breaking through tears and pain, about hope that survives loss. It is not a straightforward story of events running their predestined course, but one of surprise, of the irruption of God into the world, and of paradox.

The Christmas story, of course, is a story of faith, of a particular faith, which not all in our society share, though many are touched by it and by the way it is reflected in the writing, music and customs we have inherited. The Christmas story puts questions to the self-assertion of the day. It adds wonder to the ordinary, hope to weariness, and possibility to routine.

For those of us who believe in the large story of a God who shares our human life in Jesus, the Christmas story makes us see a shadowed world in bright colour. It gives depth both to birth and death in our own families, and frees us to hope.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications
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