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“IS THAT ALL THERE IS?”

Do you watch or do you look away?  Can you listen to the message or is it easier to turn down the volume?  And, if you have seen and heard what they are saying, can you ever really get that off of your mind?  You know what I am talking about….those commercials about starving children, displaced refugees, children in desperate need of surgeries or medical care due to horrible physical needs.  And, now even the animal people are determined to show us the faces of abused dogs and cats by doing close ups of their eyes to make sure our hearts are penetrated by the need.   The images are powerful and the ad agency that produced them knows it.

Suffering has always been in the world. Just as today, that first Christmas, there were beggars and homeless people, the infirm and the weak, children that were orphans and people that were “possessed”.  It was that kind of world into which our Lord was born.  It was that world that He came to bring so much hope.  He did not hang out in the “high rent district” and eat at the posh restaurants with the elite most of the time.  He developed a bad reputation of eating with “tax collectors (they had less respect than prostitutes did!) and with “sinners” (the average, run-of-the-mill wrong doer).  And all of those that met Him, He changed them completely…made somebodies out of nobodies…and gave hope where there had been despair!

The message of Christmas is that God intrudes upon the weak and the vulnerable, and this is precisely the message that we so often miss. God does not come to that part of us that swaggers through life, confident in our self-sufficiency. God leaves his treasure in the broken, fragmented places of our individual lives. God comes to us in those rare moments when we are able to transcend our own selfishness long enough to really care about another human being.

On the wall of the museum of the concentration camp at Dachau is a large and moving photograph of a mother and her little girl standing in line of a gas chamber. The child, who is walking in front of her mother, does not know where she is going. The mother, who walks behind, does know, but is helpless to stop the tragedy. In her helplessness she performs the only act of love left to her. She places her hands over the child’s eyes so she will at least not see the horror to come. When people come into the museum they do not whisk by this photo hurriedly. They pause. They almost feel the pain. And deep inside I think that they are all saying: “O God, don’t let that be all that there is.”

God’s hears those prayers and it is in just such situations of hopelessness and helplessness that his almighty power is born. It is there that God leaves his treasure. In Mary, as in all of us, Christ is born anew. (copied).

Christmas is much more that a benevolent gift to help the poor and hungry in December.  When Christ enters a heart and life, that person knows the transformation that comes from a new birth because of Christ’s birth and death on the cross to pay our sin penalty.  The song states it well…

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!