By Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
|Visiting with our Maronite Monks of Adoration, Petersham MA|
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
Happy two days after Christmas. If you say to someone “Merry Christmas” they will most likely tell you “Christmas was two days ago. It’s over.” However, for us Christmas has only begun. As the famous song indicates there are 12 days of Christmas.
In the Church we prepare to celebrate the major feast days, and depending on the event, we either spend a day or a few weeks celebrating the special day. So the way the liturgical services are set up, we begin preparing for Christmas with a 40 day fast on November 15 and we continue to celebrate Christmas until January 6, which is the feast of the Theophany, the baptism of our Lord. During this time we do not fast on Fridays and we continue to celebrate that Jesus appeared in our midst.
So from now until January 6, we greet each other by saying: “Christ is Born. Glorify Him.” “Almaseeh wulidah. Famijodoo.” Not: “Christ is Born. He is truly born.” “Almaseeh wulida. Haqqan wulidah.”
The birth of Jesus always marks a new beginning for us because it is the good news of God’s love. This enormous love requires us to take on a new perspective in life. Love is always beautiful but as everyone knows for love to be authentic and lasting it has to have an element of humility, sacrifice, and obedience. No couple who has been happily married for 10, 20, or 50 years can say that they still love each other if humility, sacrifice, and obedience, are not part of their life. If we truly want to show God how much we love Him, humility, sacrifice, and obedience, have to also be part of our spiritual life and our relationship with Him.
But how do we express these in our friendship with God? Before I answer this question let us look a little closer at today’s Gospel reading. After Jesus was born, the angel said to Joseph “ ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14) Then: “When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying,  ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.’” (Matthew 2:19-20)
We do not know very much about Saint Joseph but what we have in today’s Gospel shows us how he was a man who was ready to practice humility, sacrifice, and obedience to God. Saint Joseph was always humble. Throughout the whole Gospels he does not say a word, but Saint Joseph was always ready to sacrifice His own plans for the good of others and Saint Joseph was always obedient to the word of God by responding immediately to what he needed to do.
These qualities are an essential aspect of the Christmas spirit. God showed His love for us by being born in the flesh. We show our love for God by responding in a real way to His love. We cannot do this if we do not take time out of our busy schedules to pray. The more time we spend praying, the more we learn how to be humble, how to sacrifice, and how to be obedient. We simply cannot survive spiritually without prayer.
There is a man who was walking in the forest and a bear started chasing him. When the bear got closer the man began to pray: “God help me. I need to be able to run faster than the bear.” Immediately God gave him strength to run faster than the bear. Then he prayed again: “God help me. I’m getting tired.” God immediately gave him extra strength and he was no longer tired. Then finally he said: “God. Thank you so much for helping me but can you stop also helping the bear?”
God wants to help all of us, but we need to pray not only when we are being chased by a bear. Prayer is not an emergency call for help when we are desperate because God is not a soda machine where we go to get goodies when we need them.
Prayer is about slowing down our life so that we can think about how we can be more humble before God, how we can sacrifice for others, and how we can be obedient to the direction that God wants us to move in.
We are all legitimately busy. We have so many responsibilities and so many challenges in life, but we should never be too busy for God. We need to reflect on the love of the Christ child and perhaps busy ourselves with loving Him more.
On this last Sunday of the year, commit to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to read the Bible and ten minutes a day to pray. Thank God, learn to love God, and open your heart honestly before God by presenting him your deepest needs. This is true prayer.
God has humbled Himself before us and God has sacrificed Himself for us as proof of His enormous love. During this Christmas season which we continue to celebrate until the feast of the Theophany on January 6, we have a chance to reciprocate God’s love by setting aside a few minutes a day to humble ourselves before Him in prayer so that we can receive the greatest gifts of humility, sacrifice, and obedience.
Christmas is indeed not over. When we continue to receive these gifts every day through prayer we will realize that Christmas has only begun.
Christ is Born. Glorify Him.