To become like children! The most beautiful childhood memory that comes to my mind is that of celebrating Christmas and the joy of Christmas.
Perhaps my experiences of Christmas came from the fact that I was born on Christmas Day. A hundred days before each Christmas we children would begin to count the days. Only a hundred times more I will wake up in the morning, and then: Hurrah! it’s Christmas Day! When at six o’clock on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent the bells rang in the Advent season, it seemed as though the angels were exulting, and we little earthly children joined in. “O welcome, thou blessed Christmas time!”
From then on, the joy and eagerness for what was to come mounted with each day. Sometimes in the evening, when I was looking out into the darkness of the still night, I would think I saw God’s angels coming down to proclaim the Christmas message to us. The breath of Christmas peace blew down like a greeting from heaven; all the sounds that were part of this time turned into Christmas music.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates;
Behold, the Lord of glory comes!
Even though the celebration of Christmas is exploited for business profit and used for selfish purposes; even though the meaning of Christmas is often corrupted; in spite of all this, we all feel the impulse at this time to think of others, to show love to others, to be there for others. This itself shows what this joy of anticipation is. It is the feeling of human solidarity, the exulting joy in one another, the certainty of mutual love. The brightness and fragrance of the living Christmas tree under which Christmas gifts are laid – here is light and warmth, symbolizing life and love.
A child, thinking of these Christmas symbols and Christmas gifts, might ask himself, Is all this something that can go away? Can this be just an excitement that soon fades away? No, is the answer within him; for all this is not yet the best, and the best cannot pass. “To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” Of all gifts there is none so precious as this one. Therefore we ask only for this one gift: Stay with us, Lord Jesus Christ!
When as a child I stood before the lighted crib scene, I often fell into a deep reverie. I saw the Christ Child in his eternal light; I felt the same that the shepherds felt when they came to the crib to worship the little Child. It was there that I first realized what the joy of worship means. God’s greatness came in the smallness of the Child in the crib.
When in awe my heart is still
and tries to grasp this miracle,
all I can do is pray to God
and feel how endless is His love.
God became man for our own sake;
God’s Child, with us in flesh united.
How could God hate us, when He gives
us what He, past all measure, loves?
Love Him who with love is burning,
See the Star who on us pours
Light and comfort!
Anyone who as a child has looked into God’s loving heart can never despair of his life, however hard it may be.
Joy radiates peace. Love brings peace. “I proclaim to you great joy that shall come to all peoples – peace on earth!” The true Christmas experience is to feel that this Christmas peace is the greater power; that even now on earth it overcomes all unpeace. That this peace shall come to all – that is the expectation and the faith of Christmas!
The Christmas Star in the night sky, the shining of the Christmas light in the night – all this is the sign that light breaks into the darkness. Though we see about us the darkness of unrest, of family discord, of class struggle, of competitive jealousy and of national hatred, the light shall shine and drive it out. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”
Jesus is the light. Nobody else is the light; others can only witness to the light.
The eternal light shall come to earth
and give it a new radiance;
it shines into the midst of night
and makes us children of the light.
Only those who are reborn as children shall become children of the light. Wherever the Christmas Child is born in a heart, wherever Jesus begins his earthly life anew – that is where the life of God’s love and of God’s peace dawns again.
This piece is included in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.