You know the scene: a kid in pajamas runs down the stairs on Christmas morning, sees a brand-new bike or a pile of new presents under the tree, and exclaims, “He came! He came!”
It’s a scene repeated in many a holiday movie, remembered from your own childhood, or perhaps witnessed with your own eyes and ears last Christmas, just a few days ago. This is a traditional part of Christmas celebrations in many parts of the world, especially the United States, the spirit of Saint Nicholas alive and well in the fun of Santa Claus. Many of us have experienced the excitement of that child, the excitement of Christmas morning, when a mysterious person, who came quietly in the night, leaves a wonderful, hoped-for gift. After tingling and almost aching with expectation through weeks of waiting (which can seem like months) a much-anticipated promise is fulfilled.
But this experience of Christmas morning is not just for children, and it’s not just about Santa Claus. The reason that this tradition is an appropriate part of the festivities celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ is that it embodies three very Christ Mass things: mysterious promise, expectant waiting, and joyful fulfillment.
Long ago, the Creator of Heaven and Earth chose a tribe of people with whom to communicate truth and love, and promised them a Savior, a person to unite them in full relationship with the divine, to restore them to the paradise that had been lost. After centuries of waiting, generations upon generations dying with the firmly held expectation in their hearts, the long-awaited promise was delivered. Mysteriously, in the night, the fervently desired gift was given to the people of Israel, and to all the world.
The Church remembers the promise given to The Chosen People of God throughout Advent, which means coming arrival and is our own season of expectation. We relive their stories in the Hebrew Testament, anticipating with them the coming of the Lord, preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ with this long view of humankind’s need and desire for divine renewal, healing, and salvation from the darkness of sin and despair. The Jews were told that their Savior was coming, and they believed. We, Christians, know that their Savior—and our Savior, the Savior of the world—did indeed come when God’s Word was made flesh.
In this spirit, when Christmas morning comes, mindful of the millennia of waiting for God’s promised Savior, young and old alike should exclaim with joyful hearts, “He came! He came!”
We pray that our minds and hearts will be open to receive God’s mysteriously wonderful present—His presence. For God became profoundly small and humble, as tiny and lowly as a newborn baby, stooping low so that we may be able to receive Him, His mercy, His grace, and be transformed by the power of His self-giving love.
The delight doesn’t end on Christmas morning. The whole Church celebrates the arrival, the birth of Christ for an entire octave of days, carrying our joy into the new year. This giddy excitement of the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promise throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas help us to anticipate and prepare for Christ’s “Second Coming,” when the world will fade away and Christ will come again to lead us into the paradise of a new Heaven and a new Earth, the loving gift of eternal life with God. Like children who know that the greatest gift is love, we are called to live our whole lives hoping for what we most truly desire, believing in God’s promise of fulfillment, and waiting with joyful hope for the coming bliss of pure love without ceasing. Then, one beautiful morning, by the grace of God, we will exclaim, “He came!”
© 2018 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.