Nazareth: Where "All Heaven" Broke Loose
Christmas: The Nativity of Our Lord
Growing up in a family of ten children, the expression “all hell is breaking loose” was frequently applicable to our chaotic household! In particular, the one day not to cross my mother was Christmas Eve: between last-minute shopping, gift-wrapping, réveillon and Christmas dinner to prepare, and most of us kids either serving Mass or singing in the choir, Christmas Eve was always stressful. The miracle is that each year, we all managed to survive intact! Today, I treasure fond memories of coming home after Midnight Mass, still singing the carols, opening gifts, enjoying our family time together. There was still Christmas dinner to prepare, but we were reassured that my mother’s sanity had been preserved for at least another year. (Thankfully, Mum is 86 now, and still quite sane!)
We can all relate to those moments when “all hell is breaking loose.” Our celebration of Christmas is about “all heaven breaking loose”: in Jesus, God comes into our crazy, chaotic world. The veil dividing heaven and earth is parted. No earthquakes. No booming voices from heaven. A young girl from a poor family, in an obscure village called Nazareth, is expecting a child. Her fiancé, initially doubtful, eventually believes in her story of an Angel announcing the child’s divine origin. Meanwhile, an Empire bent on honing the efficiency of its taxation system forces the young couple onto the road. Mary is forced to give birth not at home, with family and friends to help her, but among strangers, in a stable outside of Bethlehem. What was so special about Nazareth or Bethlehem? Even about Mary and Joseph? Nothing obvious or visible to the people around them. Yet because of their “yes”, their willingness to cooperate with God’s plan, eternity came bursting into time. Their “yes” changed the course of human history.
Like Mary and Joseph, we too are called to say “yes” to God, with courage and openness. How will we welcome Jesus into our hearts, our homes, our families, our broken world this Christmas? We all know, in one way or another, what it is to be busy, to be under pressure, to be anxious, to sense that “all hell is breaking loose” around us. But we celebrate a heavenly visitation: Jesus comes to dwell in us and among us. This is our wish and our prayer for you: may you know the peace and joy which come from welcoming Christ into your hearts and homes. May you experience – in shared gifts and meals, in love and laughter, and in compassionate outreach to the poor, hungry, sick and lonely – the indwelling presence of Christ: for he is Emmanuel, God-with-us.