‘Good news of great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10). This is how the Bible describes the birth of Jesus. It was the first Christmas and the news was first broken to shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Even today, the good news is coming first to those shepherds who spend their nights in the open fields with their flock. They get the message right, that this is preparation time for the great Advent. May their numbers increase.
Christmas is all about Jesus’ love towards mankind, which compelled him ‘not to regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’ (Phil.2:6-7). He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. It was for the Father to highly exalt Jesus and give him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2: 9-11)
Love of our God as manifested in Jesus never ceases. It continues till the very last day. In that sense Christmas is not a once-in-a-year affair. Rather it is a continuum running from the manger in Bethlehem, a town close to Jerusalem, to the New Jerusalem, of which we read in the book of Revelation, where Jesus Christ reigns in glory. In the first Christmas, his divinity is obscured and hidden by his humanity; in his second coming, the humanity will be veiled over by the splendor of his divinity, says the Blessed Virgin. Christmas is the thread connecting Bethlehem to the New Jerusalem.
Perhaps, for the first time in centuries, we are forbidden from celebrating Christmas the way we did in the past. I can read the poignancy written on the faces of many Christians who are not sure whether they can attend the Christmas Mass, be it at midnight or morning. Restrictions are in place to prevent the faithful from assembling, worshipping and even singing. No doubt, religious freedom of Christians has been the biggest casualty of Covid-19.
How do you plan to celebrate this Christmas? With or without midnight Mass, with or without carol singing, with or without the quintessential crib, we know, we will celebrate Christmas. Because Christmas is not about what we see externally. It is about the birth of the Holy Child into the chill of our hearts. Every Christmas is a reminder of the nativity scene at Bethlehem. At the same time it is a pointer towards the final Advent leading to the establishment of his kingdom among us. Christmas is not a mere remembrance of things past. It is equally a symbol of things to come.
We have been celebrating Christmas for centuries. Every year it was a festival of plenty, both spiritually and materially. This time I fear, that the next Christmas will be rich in Spirit but poor otherwise. For us this should be the most beautiful part of the coming Chrstmas. From the first Christmas till this date we know the milestones we passed, the hurdles we crossed, the trials we have been through and the providence which helped us stay steadfast. It has been a journey through centuries holding the Holy Child and his holy parents in our hearts. The next Christmas is hardly a few days ahead and we have no doubt in our hearts as to the way in which we are going to welcome the Holy Child. We will receive him into the warmth of a manger prepared within our hearts. For us it will be a ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ as usual. When we enjoy the peace of Christ in our hearts, the world outside is looking for peace somewhere else, and they fail miserably. The world is sitting on a time bomb and the trigger can go off any time. We have been hearing about the so called ‘great reset’ and ‘build back better’ which will, they say, usher in a New World. But it is only halfway to what our Lord promised. He has promised a New Heaven and New Earth for those who stand with Him.
Every Christmas is a call to meditate on the Last Christmas. We do not know how many Christmases are left for us to celebrate. But we know one thing for sure. That the consummation of time is to happen with the last Christmas, that is the glorious second coming of our Lord. When he came on earth two thousand years ago, no king, no priest, no elder, no noble, recognised him. It had to be so, because he came to take away our sins. As Isaiah prophesied, he was supposed to be a man of sorrows. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him. He was to be despised and rejected by others and was destined to be a man of suffering, acquainted with infirmity. The first Christmas was to give birth to the sacrificial lamb for the ultimate sacrifice on cross.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). He accomplished what was assigned to him by his Father during his first coming. It could not be a grand event because he was as silent as a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep standing before its shearers.
But when the wheel of time comes a full circle, when the great day of the Lord comes, we will see him in all his majesty and glory. Second Christmas is going to be a grand event, like one which the world has never experienced in its entire history. Our eyes are fixed to that last Christmas, not to the next Christmas. Unlike the next Christmas, nobody can take away the joy of that Chrstmas from us. Because the returning Lord will destroy his enemy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming( 2 Thessa.2:8). To those who are fortunate to enter the New Heaven and New Earth, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away'( Rev. 21:4).
Which Christmas are you preparing for? The Next Christmas or the Last Christmas? If you have the Last Christmas in your mind, then read on. This is what his Mother – ours too – said about it;
‘His second coming, beloved sons, will be like the first.
The world will be completely covered in the darkness of the denial of God, of its obstinate rejection of Him……..and of rebellion against his Law of love. The coldness of hatred will still cause the roadways of this world to be deserted. Almost no one will be ready to receive Him.The great ones will not even remember Him, the rich will close their doors on Him, while his own will be too busy with seeking and affirming themselves…
‘When the Son of Man comes, will He still find faith on the earth?’ He will come suddenly and the world will not be ready for his coming. He will come for a judgement for which man will find himself unprepared.
Even in this second coming, the Son will come to you through his Mother. As the Word of the Father made use of my virginal womb to come to you, so also will Jesus make use of my Immaculate Heart to come and reign in your midst.
This is the hour of my Immaculate Heart, because the coming of Jesus’ glorious Reign of love is now in preparation. Beloved sons, just as I did, you too must prepare yourselves to receive Him!’ (Message no 166 from the book ‘To the Priests Our Lady’s beloved Sons’)
‘In the mystery of this Night, understand also how the fullness of time is accomplished in the new time which awaits you, because this first coming of Jesus in the frailty of his human nature is directed toward his second coming, when He will appear in the splendor of his divine glory. In the first Christmas his divinity is obscured and hidden by his humanity; in his second birth, the humanity will be veiled over by the splendor of his divinity.
You are living out the mystery of this second Advent, which is preparing you to receive Jesus,
when He returns to you on the clouds of heaven. Only then will the second Advent through which you are living reach its fulfillment. Then time will attain its fullness.Then will the Immaculate Heart of your heavenly Mother attain her triumph, in the definitive and
glorious triumph of her Son Jesus.(Message no 603)
Our Lady sent these Christmas messages through Fr Stefano Gobbi to invite us to be ready for the upcoming great event. As her loving children let us heed her call and prepare ourselves for the Last Christmas, even while welcoming the next Christmas.
O,Come; Let Us Adore Him!