Monday, December 20, 2010

A second Advent thought

It's time to ask ourselves: what is Christmas?

The answer is easy: Noel, i.e. a birthday.

Whose birthday? Well, the answer to this is a bit more complex: one man's and everybody's.

I'll try to explain what I mean.

What do we do at birthdays? Here it is easy again: we throw a party and bring gifts to the person whose birth day it is. Why? To say that we are glad that he or she was born. With the birth, we celebrate the joy it brought into our lives. No matter how much we care for that person, that remains ideally the truth.

Is that all? I could be asked. At Christmas we exchange gifts: does that mean that we don't do anything more than to celebrate each other's birth?

No, we do more, for the very fact that we do it in that same day, in spite of the fact that it isn't our birthday.

Many people today might think that it is just a convention, tied to old beliefs of our society that they don't hold anymore, and don't care to know about.

It's a pity. Because if they did, they could learn something about human nature that they prefer to ignore: i.e., that conventions have a reason.

If we bring gifts to each other, it is because we have been graced with gifts before. That's why not all birthdays are equal. Think of what is in a large family the birthday of a grandparent. I remember my mother's and my mother in law's eightieth birthday: it was a great family celebration – like saying: thank to you we are all here, alive and loving each other.

In the life of a state some personage's birthday might be remembered and celebrated even after his death: just think of Washington birthday.

So, if we all exchange gifts in that same day we still call noel, even though it isn't actually our birthday, it is because we celebrate, by doing it, the very capacity of finding joy in each other's existence. And we celebrate with it, whether we acknowledge it or not, the birth of someone, the one to whom we owe this capacity, for which we give therefore thanks.

He is born anew anytime that we love our neighbors, engendering in each other the joy of life.

Now is the time of his coming, to sing, at Christmas, the new born king.


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