Our senses have received their yearly assault of clamoring bells, ringing cash registers, bright greeting cards, and clamoring commercials demanding, nay, imploring us to purchase "the perfect present". Once again this most serene and beautiful of Holydays has seen its y turned into an i.
The yearly tradition that is Christmas has turned into a yearly excuse to drown out the peace, love, and glory of that Bethlehem long ago with materialism, stress, and commercialism. Just as The Savior of the world was rejected, ignored, and relegated to the outskirts of town then, He faces a yearly rejection, apathy, and relegation to the outskirts of society's mind and heart today.
Each year brings a new assault mounted on the slaps of the past. First it was physical rejection and humiliation on that cold night, then it was a slow amnesia to the messages and lessons of the Nativity, followed by a focus shift away from the Child and toward ourselves and our earthly mindsets, then a materialistic opportunity, a multicultural obsession and, in the latest slap, a total secularization and generalization of the most Holy and Sacred of events. Faced with this demonic tragedy, we must struggle to maintain our gaze on that star in the distance and, like the Three Wisemen, find our King and offer Him our humble gifts.
A Tragic Rerun
Long ago the most Holy and humble couple sought the warm embrace of consideration and kindness from indifferent, rude, arrogant, and selfish arms.
Focused on their Divine treasure, they thought not of their own comfort but of the safety and care of the arriving Prince of Peace. Despite their simple and humble plea, they were rejected by hearts so self-absorbed and indifferent to human need that no warm gaze from a Virgin so pure could melt the cold within their souls. Here was the epitome and model of family being spit upon by a society for whom a family meant more hassles than blessings. Here was a God gladly offering His Divine Son as a treasured gift to any who would provide simple lodging both physical and spiritual, yet this precious gift was pushed aside or ignored by ungrateful souls. Here was the ultimate Giver of Love being mistreated by those with only love of self. Here was the Carrier of Truth being turned away with pathetic excuses more insulting than cold silence. Ultimately, the Divine Child came for any who would want and accept Him, and He came below the radar screen of a world too self-absorbed and void of God to realize what was happening.
Sadly, the rejection of that cold night in Bethlehem has become its own tradition, with its own trappings, updates, and variations. Each year this world finds a new way to slam the door on that Divine Child, to be annoyed by His presence and even the mention of His Name, to strip Him of even His own birth, and to push Him out into the cold night.
Any of us faced with such treatment, with such ingratitude, would surely struggle with sorrow, with resentment, with anger. Yet this Child, and His Parents, would only silently accept and move on, maintaining their faith and love with ear doorstep. Like a tragic rerun the rejection of Bethlehem plays itself out yearly in our hearts, in our souls, and in our society. To make things worse, if that were possible, this world rejects even though it has seen the pain which that rejection brings. The raw, rural ignorance of those hearts in Bethlehem have been replaced by sophisticated, modern, calculated agendas, yet the story repeats itself in sad detail.
The Devil's Deception
The rejection at Bethlehem was not so much a case of hearts annoyed or indifferent as much as souls and minds distracted. The devil, mindful that simple, direct rejection is too obvious and risky to his purpose, has always dangled new apples in search of fresh victims. The Holy Family was ignored and rejected because their timing was wrong. They did not fit into the plans for the night. Here were people in need of spontaneous kindness where spontaneity was reserved for pleasure and kindness was reserved for lip service. It is easier to reject that which you cannot hear, and it is easier to hear that which makes the most noise, touches the most internal buttons, and offers the most enticing fruit.
Bethlehem then and our society now are about bells and whistles, and this couple with a Donkey had neither bells nor whistles to offer. Holiness and Divinity do not fit in minds distracted by the cares and whims of this superficial world. Kindness, concern, and love do not fit well on palm pilots, cell phones, and schedules. This is why the worries and plight of a family in need on a cold night could not compete with the party, the food, the wine, the music inside. This is why many today dislike seeing the homeless, the sick, and the poor. It is the Devil who encourages us to play the music loud enough so that we cannot hear the cries of the poor, the sick, and the desperate. If a Savior is born to the world, and nobody notices, it is distraction that is to blame.
What We Must Do
Faced with each yearly, updated version of Bethlehem's rejection, we may feel hopeless or resigned, but we must fight to keep our gaze on that star which shows the true path to Our Savior and to our salvation. The distractions of this world will tempt us to follow the wrong road to Christmas, one lined with secular, materialistic, New Age, ecumenical, modernized, pagan, politically correct, diluted, and commercialized copies which more closely fit this world's message. Every year we must choose a side in this recurring story. We can opt for the comfort, the warmth, the convenience, the popularity, the political correctness inside the inn, or we can choose the discomfort, the cold, the struggle, the unpopularity, and the rejection outside the comfort zone. We can stand with the distracted and self-absorbed or with the Holy Family. Even as those chosen to guide us abandon their duty or even distract us further away from Our Savior, we must stand firm with the Holy Family. Even as the foundations of our Faith crumble around us, we must become the most solid column that will endure each assault until our battle is won. Even as this world tempts us to embrace its message, we must steadfastly embrace the Holy Child of Bethlehem and return the y to holiday. May you have a Blessed and Holy Christmas filled with the true love, peace, and meaning of that night long ago.