A Passage and A Prayer 12/12/18

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon. . .And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness.”  Revelation 12:1-6 (ESV)

Scrooge here, with some “bah, humbug” for your Christmas celebration.  What is red and jolly, drives a team of reindeer and rewards people for being good?  What, according to St. John in Revelation 12, is red and fierce and intent on destroying the Christ-child, his gospel of grace and his Church?  And what word do you get if you rearrange the letters of S-A-N-T-A.  Look, I’m not sayin’ that Santa Claus is the devil.  I’m just sayin’ that Santa may serve Satan’s purpose if we aren’t wise.  When you tell a naïve child the legend of Santa and the story of Jesus’ birth, then later they discover that one isn’t true, what are they to make of the other? 

As St. John observed, Satan has used persecution in an attempt to destroy Jesus and the Church; but persecution actually made the Church grow.  He’s learned subtlety.  In the Christmas season, distraction is his best weapon.  Santa and presents and decorations and parties are pleasant distractions from the truth of the Savior’s birth.  It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and lose sight of “the reason for the season.”  When the distractions become near-obsessions, you can come to hate Christmas.  Red ink can rob the joy of Christmas with worries about how you’ll pay for all this.  Unkind comments from relatives can leave you seeing red.  And how much peace on earth are you feeling when you’re exhausted by a late-night engagement with red wrapping paper.  Get the message of the octagonal red road sign and STOP.  Regain perspective as you go with the shepherds to see the almighty Son of God in the form of a helpless baby, and know that this was because he loved you so much that he was willing to take your place in this hurting world.  Get the spirit of Christmas as you hear the angels sing that God’s favor rests with you, in spite of your sins and your spiritual ADHD.  Stop with Mother Mary to ponder in your heart the wonder of Jesus’ birth and the story of your salvation launched by that birth.

It’s ironic that Christianity in our time has to contend with a secular version of Christmas, since it seems that early Christians chose December 25 to celebrate Jesus’ birth in order to blunt the pagan Roman holiday of the sun-god. The lesson is that Jesus is always fighting to get our attention; and when he does, your heart knows peace and joy.

My dear Savior, break through the Christmas fog of our culture to brighten my heart with your wondrous love.  Fix my thoughts on who you are and why you came to this earth, so that life comes back into divine focus.  In the midst of seasonal anxieties and fatigue, bring me your peace and joy.  I love you, baby Jesus, born to be King Jesus, my Savior.  Amen.  

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