Maybe you’re not feeling very merry this Christmas, in this year of pandemic, economic recession, social unrest, and division. We seem to be social-distancing in more ways than one. Not only are we sadly needing to keep our distance from our dearly loved ones in order to avoid spreading Covid 19, but we may also want to keep away from conversing with certain friends and family members because of the political rancor being experienced in our country, (insert name of your country here).
With sickness, death, hospital-overcrowding, unemployment, riots, and isolation … maybe we’re not feeling the merry of Christmas this year.
In many depictions of the Virgin Mary, she doesn’t look very merry either. Sometimes, even while holding the Christ Child, she can look rather glum. I think that some artists, perhaps rightly, try to depict something of the Eternal Now, tempering the joy of young motherhood with Mary’s future suffering at the foot of the Cross, keeping in mind the painful sorrow of our sinfulness upon her own Immaculate heart. We know that her heart was pierced with a sword of painful grief through her beloved son’s crucifixion, and we even give her the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow.
But was her life so glum? No, certainly not.
Along with moments of confusion, fright, sorrow, and worry, Mary experienced overwhelming joy in her life, sacred wonder, and blissful peace through her humble trust in God and loving surrender to His will. On the first Christmas, she cradled her newborn child in all of His divine innocence and human sweetness, singing softly to Him as she gazed upon Him in awe. Perhaps, even in that moment, she was caught up in the Eternal Now, experiencing the joy of her baby in the splendor of motherhood, along with the torturous pain of a grieving mother, while also being consumed with the tremulous awe of divine mercy, of His resurrection and our eternal redemption — the glorious salvation of souls. For hope was born at Christmas when the Virgin Mary brought forth the Savior to the world from her womb and the angels brought forth glad tidings to the shepherds from Heaven.
On that first Christmas, Mary experienced, in the pondering of her pure heart, the tidal wave of joy on which the angels spread their wings of glory.
So, my dear reader, fear not.
I bring joyful tidings of good news that is for all people.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill.”Luke 2:14
Perhaps, like me, you are living with a progressive disease or debilitating illness. Thinking back to last Christmas, I am keenly aware of how much terribly weaker my right hand has become, my last functioning motor muscles becoming nearly unable to drive my power wheelchair and click my computer mouse. Life isn’t easy. We are all experiencing sacrifices due to the Covid 19 pandemic, being rendered less able to do what we are used to do, what we would like to do. Although our own lives may be far from ideal, although we may be experiencing acute suffering, although we may be struggling beneath the weight of sinfulness, we know the reality of Christmas — of Christ’s Mass.
Eternal and all-powerful God chose to break into our fallen world of pain and live our sufferings Himself, in the flesh. By assuming our hurting humanity unto His saving divinity, He personally and intimately took on our every pain, our every grief, our every suffering and made it His own so that, in this union, our lives can be lifted up with His and transformed into lives of grace and redemption — into lives of divine love received and shared. That’s the joyful hope and hopeful joy of Christmas, embodied in the sweet innocence of a baby and the grateful merriment of a new mother with eyes full of sacred wonder, shining bright.
Jesus Christ, fully divine, experienced the sorrow of being human, but also the joy. The sacred wonder of childhood was fully His, just as the sacred joy and wonder of motherhood was fully Mary’s.
When, as Mary joyfully held the Child Jesus in her arms, we hold the sweet innocence of Incarnate God in our hearts, Christmas will not be glum. It will be merry, because the peace of true hope and the quiet wonder of true joy is alive and well in the heart of everyone who believes..
Yes, a very merry Christmas.
Eid Milad Saeid — عيد ميلاد سعيد
Krisamas Kee Badhaee — क्रिसमस की बधाई
Shèngdàn jié kuàilè — 圣诞节快乐
S Rozhdestvom — С Рождеством
Chag Molad Sameach’ — חג מולד שמח
Felicem Natalem Christi, Pax Christi
And now a little Christmas present (my favorite song) for your listening enjoyment:
Or if you have a lot of time, listen to more from Handel’s Messiah:
© 2020 Christina Chase
Feature Image: The Virgin and Child, Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) – Sacristy triptych, Frari (Venice)
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.