The answer to our title question is related to how many different ways we can tell or experience the Christmas story. Hollywood has many different ways and our art and music even more. From Nutcracker to Dickens, from Seuss to the Gospel of Luke, we experience the miracle of Christmas.
Christmas Eve found me, with my children and grandchildren, at a Christmas Mass. The familiar hymns choked me and I got caught several times just mouthing the words. It was the crčche and the memories of childhood Christmas with Mother and Dad and all the Christmases since with family!
What is it that makes Christmas so powerful it can still turn our world upside down? It is as powerful as the drama of the crucifixion and its continuous impact on our world.
Aleteia, the Vatican Catholic News Service, shares six ways Christmas changes everything we think about God. That is a hint about how Christmas also changes us.
First, at Christmas, we are rich and God is poor. The creator of everything is lying in a feeding trough, while we are “decked out with decorations, cookies and presents”. “God in Bethlehem gives everything and becomes utterly poor, calling on us to be poor at heart and extravagantly generous”.
Second, God is quiet; we are noisy. God appeared in a manger, hidden and quiet. “At Christmas, it is his creatures who are noisy… God doesn’t draw attention to himself. So we do.
Third, God is patient with us; we must be patient with God. After Adam and Eve fell, we waited for millennia. Then Christ came, but it took decades for him to grow up, and it has taken centuries for his mission to spread. God wants us to be patient. “Sooner than we think, we’ll find ourselves in the next life, where a thousand years are like a day.”
Fourth, for God, love means sacrifice. “For us, love means… strong feelings of attachment, intense pleasure, gratifying memories. …finding someone else to build us up. But we know from the crčche what love means to God. It means becoming small for others. He ‘decreased’ so that we might increase.”
Fifth, “God loses battles, but wins wars. In our day, we see terrible atrocities and threats to Christians around the world…Our nation’s major institutions reject God. The Church in the West looks mortally wounded. It can seem like we face an insurmountable foe. It seemed that way for the baby Jesus, too.” Yet today billions of Christians cover the earth.
Sixth, God loves a good story. God could have saved us in many majestic ways, yet he “chose to be born in a stable, to a couple far from home, surrounded by animals, shepherds and wise men, and pursued by a wicked king. God knows we love a good story, and he loves us enough to communicate with us using the best story ever.”
A U Tube video exclaims, “The most wonderful surprise of Christmas is looking at you in the mirror”. As a mother unwraps the mirror before her, her Christmas gift appears behind her in the person of her daughter home from military service.
Our most wonderful gift of Christmas is the loved ones who surround us, who look across the kitchen table at us.
God is still a surprise. God became small so that we could love him in return.