I have to admit that the celebration of Christmas produces some anxiety in me. On the one hand, I want to be calm and help my people celebrate well, but everything about Christmas has been said a million times, we are so familiar with the readings at Mass and with the story… Also, Christmas requires some quietness, a certain calm state of mind and spirit, and what most of us have been living lately is total chaos—gifts, Christmas gatherings of all kinds, traveling… and family. If yours is like mine, nothing quiet there!
I admit that what I always try to do is to bring newness to the way we reflect about the gospel and about our faith. Find new language, new words to help us get to the core of what we believe. Pull new meaning out of something we seem to know too well. This is what I will do today–in the blog and at Mass. I want to reflect about Christmas as the Celebration of God’s Empathy. And here it goes:
At Christmas, God becomes human. God deeply wishes to embrace the human experience and becomes one like us. Christmas is the celebration of God’s empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand reality the way another person experiences it. To exercise the gift of empathy means to be able to walk in the other person’s shoes and understand and share that person’s view, and feelings, without judging. Empathy requires our own ability to be open to our own emotions. It requires a learning, and constant practice. I believe it is a wonderful way to reflect about Christmas: God deeply desires to share the great human adventure with us. God becomes human in radical openness to us and to our emotions. God embraces my struggles and joys, my sadness and my hope. Christmas is the celebration of God’s empathy.
Any liturgical celebration comes with a call, a mission attached to it. We contemplate and celebrate the mystery of the Nativity, at the same time that we embrace the call to empathy. If God has become human as an act of absolute empathy towards us, we also are called to become more human ourselves–the more human we become, the more we will be like God. We become more human when we are able be empathetic to others. We are called to understand, rather than to judge; we are called to share in joys and anxieties, rather than undermine other’s experiences; we are called to listen and communicate, the way God listens and communicates with us—as He so wonderfully does today.
God exercises empathy with passion. Christmas shows us the nature of our passionate God. At the Christmas Midnight Mass we will read Paul’s letter to Titus, where it says that God has delivered us, to “cleanse a people as his own, passionate to do what is good.” We are invited to be people of empathy with the same passion God shows empathy in the mystery of the Nativity—which is the same passion with which Jesus—the God made human—will live the rest of his life.
May you and your families have a Blessed Christmas. May it be an opportunity for all of us to become more human, sharing in God’s empathy towards us. Christmas is a beginning, let it start for us.