By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published January 12, 2017 | En Español
Concluding the Christmas season leaves everyone with an obvious task: “How do we transition into the new year?” And I am not just referring to the job of putting away the decorations of the season.
How do we bring the truth of the Christmas mystery into the everyday world in which we live? How do we reconcile an Infant born to save us with the brutal reality of terrorist attacks, or the image of the three racially diverse Magi with the racist attitudes that constantly pit cultures and ethnic groups against one another? How does the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt influence our attitudes toward those who are immigrants and refugees in our midst? What does the slaughter of the Holy Innocents have to do with our abortion-on-demand laws?
In other words, which stories illuminate the true news of God’s salvation and which falsely dwell on the horrible inhumanity of human beings? Is the Christmas mystery really just fictional misinformation, or is it the authentic truth that counteracts and corrects our world’s distressing behavior?
The media fills our lives with constant reports of violence, hatred, injustice and ruthlessness. The stories of compassion, mercy, reconciliation, healing and hope seem to pale in comparison with the hostile events in our world.
Which stories reveal the truth?
Christmas gives us the annual reminder that God’s grace is always greater than our sinfulness. We cannot pack that hope away along with the decorations.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday on this coming Monday, Jan. 16, reminds us that the work of racial harmony must not simply be a dream that he once had that is now lost to us. The narrative of the Holy Innocents is not a metaphorical biblical story about infants who were brutally murdered, while the babies lost to abortion are just the price we must pay for the freedom of so-called choice.
As we take down the tree and remove the lights, we should ask ourselves does the Christmas story belong only to the few weeks closest to the feast or does this mystery of God’s triumphant love belong at the center of our lives and not simply to a few days in December?
When we read about or view the constant oppressive accounts in the news that give excessive detail to every disaster—natural and human—and to the uncontrollable violence of our world, do we ever consider these events as the distortion of what God invites us to see as His hand active in our world? Too often the comments that follow these sad stories only manage to intensify their brutality, as some people make remarks that on occasion are even more brutal than the events themselves.
As we box up the decorations, we should ask ourselves what must we keep within our hearts and spirits from the Christmas mystery that will allow us to see the truth that God wishes us to remember each and every day: that we are loved and noble and destined to live in peace with each other until that day when we enter the Kingdom prepared for us by the Father Himself.
The decorations and lights that have transformed our homes and yards with a joyful reminder of Christ’s birth may be put away for another year, but the hope and the truth that they symbolize must remain visible and accessible each day of the new year for all to behold.