By Ricardo Márquez
Christmas is the opportunity to remember and renew the presence of the mystery of God in our history. Jesus’ humble birth is the foundation of all the lights and advertising that scream for our attention this time of year.
With Jesus, the idea and the experience of the mystery of God changes totally. That is why the question is existentially radical: “Who do you say that I am?”
To the believer, God is not a distant being, or an impersonal energy of the universe; He’s a person who makes Himself present as a child, grows among us, gives us good news, dies and resurrects, opening our conscience to a new reality that changes the meaning of our lives. Death does not have the final word; love, justice, respect and compassion help us to build relationships that allow us to experience beforehand what we are destined to live after our passing for eternity.
How can we open spaces for celebration, reflection and prayer to connect with this meaning of Christmas?
Advertising pushes us to think about lights, decorations and gifts. Parents and families have to make a conscious decision to explain the meaning of what we celebrate. We are privileged to pass on the faith in the earliest years of our children, who learn by modeling how we make the sign of the cross, how we pray and sing together, how we join our hands to give thanks at mealtimes. All of these actions and rituals are silent lessons of faith and love.
First come these experiences, and later reflections and explanations about their meaning. On the road to educating about the faith, it’s easier to construct over something built rather than letting the first years slip by.
Faith is the gift that we receive in the home to be able to open our minds and hearts to those mysterious realities that reason can spend years contemplating.
With words and actions, parents and elders transmit that there is something beyond, something greater than ourselves, a Father Creator who loves us, a God who makes Himself present in Jesus, and His Spirit who accompanies us.
Faith is a decision that allows us to look at reality with different eyes, to see the light of hope beyond pain and limitations; faith is the free option of trusting and entrusting ourselves to the unconditional love of God who reveals Himself as a baby born in a manger.
Today, I dare to echo an ancestral proclamation from the people of Israel: Listen, families and peoples; love God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and all of your strength. Let us pay attention to Jesus’ message of fraternity, peace and justice. To have a life and an abundant one, let’s pay attention to the signs of the times and of the inspirations of the Spirit in the community to care for, heal and reconcile. And don’t ever stop repeating to our children — at home, in the domestic Church, when we get up, at the dinner table, and when we go to bed — that we should not be afraid in these confusing times … because the Creator of the Universe made Himself one of us in Jesus to remind us forever that He loves us and that nothing that He created will be lost. That is to be reborn. That is Christmas.
Ricardo Márquez is associate director of the Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Family Life and Spirituality.