The Condescension of Christmas
I want to be clear about something: I love Christmas. Everything to do with Christmas. I don’t care that the stores put out Christmas decorations in October because just seeing those aisles start to fill with twinkling lights, sparkling ornaments, and scented pine cones reminds me that my favorite time of year is approaching. I listen to Christmas music as soon as Thanksgiving is over because – hey, it takes me more than 4 weeks to prepare for the joy of the Incarnation, okay?
I need you to understand how much I love Christmas because then you can understand what a problem I’ve had this year.
Deep down this year, my heart just hasn’t been in it. Christmas has felt more like a to-do list than a celebration – a mental exercise requiring so much effort.
“The language of the Lord is the language of love and tenderness, of whispers and extreme simplicity…Usually, Christmas seems like a very noisy feast, but we can use a bit of silence to hear these words of love, closeness and tenderness.” – Pope Francis
Reflecting on that quote, I realized that my Christmas needs more softness and tenderness, more heart and less head, more ‘being’ and less ‘doing.’
Yesterday, snow covered roads meant my normally half hour commute home from work took an hour and a half. I had Christmas music on in the car and noticed lyrics to a one carol I had never noticed before:
Raise, raise the son on high
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born
The babe, the son of Mary
The First Christmas was a pretty noisy feast. Travel, crowds, gifts, visitors, animals, death threats, angels, dreams, songs, shepherds, even a drum set!
Yet, in the midst of it, there is a moment – just a moment – when all is calm. Mary and Joseph look lovingly over the sweet soft head of the newborn child. She sings a lullaby showering the soft baby skin in kisses. He gazes in adoration and awe at the gift and responsibility in front of him.
The night is silent, and before the choirs of angels, visiting shepherds, adoring Magi, and flight to Egypt, there is just the Holy Family hearing in the depths of their souls “the language of the Lord…the language of love and tenderness, of whispers and extreme simplicity.”
What Child is this? This, this is Christ the King. The King of Kings salvation brings. This is the God of the Universe who condescends in the greatest act of humility to be bound by human form. This is the Incarnation. The moment when God’s very Word – the same Word that, booming across the chaos, speaks creation into being – becomes tenderness, gentleness, and simplicity.
While the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous ‘condescension’ of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, “that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature.” (Dei Verbum, 13)
What Child is this? This is the Child who wants to be born again into our hearts this Christmas. My prayer for all of us is that we can find a moment of silence. Between the travels and visitors, the gifts and the music, let us all find a moment when all is calm and our hearts are bright with the love and tenderness of God’s great condescension.
What Child is this? This is Christ the Lord who desires to be born into the softest area of your heart this Christmas. May you find a moment of silence to ponder this mystery, holding all these things in your heart rather than your head. May your loving heart enthrone him.
I like Christmas Jesus best…