Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Advent Week #4 Reflection

As we approach the Christmas season, I can’t help but recall some of my favorite memories from this time of year. I think of those snowy days in December when my siblings and I would zoom down white hills on our plastic sleds. I remember waiting with great anticipation for Santa Claus to come with mountains of gifts. My mouth waters as I think about the smells and tastes of my grandmother’s Cuban dishes prepared on Christmas Eve. Those cold, dark days of December were softened by the glow of Christmas lights in our neighborhood and the warmth of our family’s home. As fun and as beautiful as these memories are, however, they do not fully reflect the true meaning and significance of this approaching Christmas season.

As I read and pray with the Nativity of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Luke, I come to realize the very radical nature of the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, left his proper place at the right hand of God the Father in order to fully assume our human nature as a small, helpless, and fragile child. Jesus’ very conception occurred in unusual circumstances: an unwed, Spirit-filled mother, ponderings of divorce, dreams and visions, acts of trust and faith. Jesus was not born as a wealthy or powerful Roman, but he chose to be born into a poor and powerless Jewish family. Jesus was born a stranger in a damp and dirty cave amidst oxen and cattle.

We continue to see the radical nature of the Incarnation in the announcement of the angels to the shepherds! Shepherds were societal outcasts who existed on the margins of society as landless workers. They were tasked with herding unintelligent, smelly animals. It was precisely to these shepherds that the heavenly host of angels declare the birth of the Savior! The birth of Jesus inaugurates his life’s mission of restoring all people, particularly the marginalized, to new life in God.

While I’ll always hold onto and cherish those dear Christmas memories from my childhood, I recognize that the true meaning of Christmas is much more challenging! As a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, I am called to identify myself with the Incarnate One who chose to be born poor, powerless, and vulnerable. The entire life of Christ – from his birth to his death – was one of mercy, compassion and constant selflessness. This kenotic, self-emptying love is to be the hallmark of all who claim to be followers of Jesus. My life as a Christian, then, also compels me to be like those angels on that first Christmas night, to find the outcasts on the margins of society and proclaim to them the Good News that Christ has been born to free us from sin and restore us to God’s life and friendship!

And this is what the Christmas season is truly about. Merry Christmas!   

Ryan Glenn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, completed Theology III at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. 

During the 2016-17 year, Ryan will reside and minister at St. Matthew’s Parish in East Stroudsburg, PA. 

There, he will continue to pray and discern his vocational calling. Ryan will also be involved in multiple parish ministries, including Catholic Campus Ministry at East Stroudsburg University.