25 December, Sunday — Born to Die; Die to be Born Again

Dear Oxygen readers,

The Core Team wishes one and all a blessed, peaceful and joyous Christmas filled with God’s graces and love. May He continue to light out paths and guide us on our journeys as we come to know Him more.

Christmas Day — Vigil Mass

Is 62:1-5
Acts 13:16-17,22-25
Mt 1:1-25

“…that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo the sandal.”

Somewhere in Bethlehem, it was a serene, quiet, star-filled night. In a stable at the side of an inn, adjoining open pastureland, a handful of barn animals and a couple of camels were nonchalantly sleeping or chewing cud, a little bothered initially by the disturbance but subsequently oblivious and indifferent to the little human infant sleeping beside them. A handful of shepherds gazing in wonder and amazement at the same sleeping infant. Three kingly figures bow low in silent adoration, fully aware that they bow before divine majesty. Mary and Joseph, tired new parents, silent also, scarcely able to comprehend everything that was happening around them, happy just to have respite and rest and baby Jesus safely in their arms. All was silent, all was peaceful, all was bright on this holy night.

Parallel this to the night at Gethsemane. Anything but a holy and silent night. Rather, a night where terror filled the air and in the heart of Jesus and in droplets of blood and sweat falling on the ground. A bunch of grown men fussing about Jesus, quarrelsome amongst themselves. Unthinkable. Scandal and lamentation about Jesus’ revelation of his impending betrayal. “Not I Rabbi, surely?”. Soldiers with knives and clubs dragging and accosting Jesus. Violence and screams of pain as blood is spilt when an ear is cut off. The clink of silver pieces tossed about and falling to the ground. Vehement denials – “I swear I do not know this man!”.

The night before Easter morn was a silent night too. But a very different one. Silence born not of peace and holiness but of sorrow, despair, hopelessness. The night was dark to hide the shame and terror. Shame hiding the cowardice and betrayal by the apostles. Darkness hiding the terror from the lurid violence of a death so bloody and merciless and excruciating, which could happen to them at any time too. The Messiah was dead. His was an inglorious death given to the lowliest of slaves. His persecutors were laughing all the way to the synagogue for their celebratory party. “Good riddance to bad rubbish” — that was probably the toast made by the Sanhedrin as they celebrated their victory over the pathetic attempt by an upstart carpenter ‘king’ to establish his new ‘kingdom’. “The Son of my God, my a–!” Such insolence. Such audacity. Such lunacy.

Christmas morning is the day our Saviour was born into our human world. And whilst the external conditions may seem peaceful and serene, and indeed they were, it belies the truth that Jesus was born for one purpose alone – to die. Violently. For us. To save us. That was the Father’s will.

And whilst the external conditions of Gethsemane and the pre-dawn hours of the Saturday night before Easter morn were quite the opposite to Bethlehem, it belies the truth that we were in fact, at the cusp of our eternal salvation. Despite the violence that preceded the Crucifixion, we were in fact, entering our eternal ‘Christmas’. The words of the Exultet sums this up:

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

Life is a cycle of seasons. Faith, too, is a cycle of seasons. Christmas will lead to Lent and Lent to Easter. Only with the birth of Jesus will we have a saviour who will one day carry the cross of our wounds, our sins, our brokenness, our hopelessness, our shame, our despair. A saviour who will lead us to the Crucifixion – our own Crucifixion. And when that day comes, will the occasion of our Resurrection be possible. And with Resurrection will come our rebirth – into new life – into eternal life. In the Resurrection of Jesus will we experience our own spiritual re-birth. Our own birth at the Bethlehem of our lives. A birth into an eternity of peace, love, hope, light, joy, wholeness, oneness with God. Eternally. When that day comes, Christmas has finally and truly…arrived.

In the quiet of this holy night, our Salvation, has been born.

Blessed Christmas!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us to look beyond the surface of this world and the superficiality of our faith, so as to allow the true light of the birth of your Son as the one who will journey with us and show us the way to our Resurrection and rebirth into eternal life.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for this time of great rejoicing as we open with gratitude and joy in our hearts, the precious gift of your Son to us. Thank you for the birth of your Son, for the gift of our Resurrection.

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