Believe … white scrip letters on a red paper bag caught my attention at the mall. It seemed an appropriate word for the season, and yet to see it as Macy’s theme just seemed odd until I made a connection between the word and their support of the Make-a-Wish foundation. Walt Disney built a very lucrative empire on fantasy, a mouse, princesses and the concept of believe. The ability to believe is what captures every child’s imagination during this season as they stand in line to share their story and present their list of desires to an old man with a white beard in a red suit who flies around in the middle of the night in a sled powered by reindeer entering homes through chimneys. They come though, boys and girls, rich and poor, in every part of the world, from every walk of life to stand before him or sit on his lap. The one common thread in their experience is that each leaves that snowy throne believing that the old man in the red suit will deliver.
If only we could have that same unwavering belief in our God … that our God delivers!
Consider St Francis. The year was 1223 in a cave outside the hilltown of Greccio. Having read the gospel of the nativity, it is said that a child … not any child … but the child Jesus appeared in the manger prepared by the people. Possible for Francis and the other witnesses to see because they believed in that which we have celebrated for 2000 years. Unto us a child is born… wonderful, counselor, prince of peace, light in darkness, savior, redeemer!
Brothers, there is much to distract us these days from the simple, innocent belief that a child is capable of embracing, from the belief that Francis had in God’s promise to deliver a redeemer to a world that knows darkness. We live in a world where poverty and hunger are too real a reality for too many; a world where fear and terror reign; a world where the news recounts all too regularly the murderous acts against ordinary people held captive by militants who think they have a cause; a world where racism is all too real an experience, and all too often used as an excuse for perpetuating violence; a world where the fight for justice is shrouded in hatred; a world where corruption and abuse are too often the acceptable game, even in the Order and in the Church; a world where even our own experience of aging and diminishment can steal away our energy and hope; a world where each friars’ giftedness can too easily be clouded by personal sinfulness. Yet in the midst of all this darkness, we are to believe that our God delivers.
I’ll leave the old man in the red suit to children, and the talk of stars, angels, shepherds and wisemen to your own imagination. What is Christmas? What is the incarnation all about? It’s about believing that our God delivers in a child all that we hope for.
May this Christmas be an opportunity for each of us to believe anew in God’s promise, and may we be the voice that proclaims what we believe … God delivers; a child is born for us!
Merry Christmas and blessings in the new year!
President, English Speaking Conference OFM
Provincial Minister, Assumption BVM Province