An understated, hidden approach marked the whole career of Jesus. His life was short, just over 30 years, almost all of them spent in a backwater village. What drew Him to us was His desire just to be with us, to let us grow accustomed to Him. We want to accomplish something, make a splash, make a difference; He was content for most of His life just to be the neighbor down the street. He performed miracles, but these were not so much displays of power as acts of mercy drawn from His compassionate Heart. And, as stunning as they were, they were relatively few: if Christ’s purpose was simply to make this world a better place, He devoted very little of His precious time and energy to healing the sick.
This hidden, subtle manner was most evident in His death. Challenged to show His power and come down from the Cross, Jesus chose instead to hang there impotent, powerless to heal, hardly able to speak. He was driven out of the holy city, socially distanced to the limit, figuratively and literally “cancelled.” His ignominious death should give us all pause: wherever we draw a line, Christ takes His place on the other side of it. Even His resurrection was experienced by a small group. Having – as they thought – settled the matter of Jesus, important people continued to go about important business, unaware that through the divine power of the Holy Spirit the risen Lord was quietly knitting back together the torn and shredded fabric of the human family.
The way that God sneaked into the world on the first Christmas set the pattern for His whole life: simplicity, humility, without fanfare. The message of Christmas is God’s ardent desire just to be with us, to be present to us in our joys and sorrows in the most ordinary ways, giving infinite meaning to our lives which might seem so insignificant to others and so fruitless to ourselves.
Each year we tell our children the Christmas story, set out the figures of our family creche, “virtually” make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. But perhaps we envy those shepherds who could actually walk to the stable and see the newborn Child Himself with their own eyes. We should not envy them, for our privilege is greater than theirs. True, they could see and touch the Word made flesh, hold in their arms that weak Infant who was the fulfillment of all God’s promises, and indeed of blessings that the human mind had not imagined until that night. But when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we do not only behold Christ, we receive His very Body and Blood, which transforms our flesh into His.