Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Beware of Short Circuits!

Christmas Day (Mass At Night)

Picture: cc Michael

Sisters and brothers, have you ever experienced a short circuit? Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you know what a short circuit is. You know it’s what happens when the current in an electrical circuit is diverted in some way–takes a short cut so to speak–so that the full circuit cannot be completed. And then the lights, for example, won’t come on. The toaster or microwave won’t work. What’s worse, your appliances may actually get damaged. Sometimes even beyond repair. Which is why short circuits are a real nuisance. Something to be avoided. We all know that.

But perhaps what we don’t always remember is that electricity is not the only thing that can be short circuited. Can you think of anything else? How about relationships? Think, for example, of a classic love triangle. Handsome and eligible A falls in love with beautiful and equally eligible B. The feelings are mutual. The chemistry intense. The sparks fly. Well, at least at first. But then, along comes C. Who may or may not be handsome. Or beautiful. And maybe not all that eligible. But still, A or B end up falling for C. Upsetting the original relationship. Short circuiting the initial love connection between A and B. Possibly even causing hurt to one or both of them.

And, of course, if love can be short circuited, so can joy. We’re now, for example in the season for exchanging gifts. And it’s usually a joyful experience. But this joy can be short circuited too. For instance, people have given me some gift vouchers for Christmas. And receiving them is a joyful thing. But this joy isn’t quite complete until I buy something with those vouchers. And then actually make use of the things that I buy. What a waste it would be, if I were just to leave those vouchers in my drawer, and forget all about them. Until the expiry date has passed. In such a situation, the joy that the generous givers of those vouchers intended for me would be short circuited. And what a pity too. What a waste of a good gift!

Whether it’s electricity or love or joy, we need to beware of short circuits. We need to avoid them at all costs. I mention this only because I think our Mass readings on this Christmas Night are actually telling us the very same thing. Beware of short circuits!

As you’ve no doubt already noticed, both the first reading and the gospel announce the birth of a child. An extraordinary infant. A precious gift from God. A saviour sent to rescue God’s people from danger. To bring them justice and integrity. And peace that has no end. Scripture scholars don’t quite agree on the precise identity of the child mentioned in the first reading. But we Christians interpret both readings as referring to one and the same person. Jesus. Whose birth we celebrate tonight. He is the only One with the power to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy completely. He is the greatest and most precious Gift from God to us. Which is why it’s fitting that, in the gospel, the news of his birth is proclaimed by the angels with great joy.

And yet, sisters brothers, we know far too well, that this Gift, this Peace, this Joy was not as well received as it should have been. This is true even as far back as the time of the prophet Isaiah. Our first reading tonight is taken from chapter 9. A little earlier, in chapter 7–the passage we heard on Sunday–Isaiah had proclaimed a similar prophecy to Ahaz, the king of Judah. Encouraging the king to ask God for a sign. But Ahaz had refused. Probably because he was afraid of losing his kingdom. Maybe even his own life. And, in choosing his own concerns over God’s gift, Ahaz failed to receive the joy that was being offered to him and his people. Out of fear and selfishness, the king short circuited God’s loving and merciful intentions for him.

In the gospel too, we see short circuits taking place. How else are we to understand the care taken by St. Luke to include, in his story, the little detail that when the time came for Jesus to be born, there was no room at the inn? The hotels were full. All available space had already been taken. Occupied by others who had arrived earlier. Or perhaps reserved by those deemed more important. And yet, who could have been earlier than the One who existed before Time ever began–the Eternal Word Made Flesh? And who could have been more important than the One who came to bring us life in all its fullness–the Saviour of the World? In any case, in the little town of Bethlehem, on Christmas night, hotels and hearts alike were simply too full to accommodate Christ the Lord. And, as a result, God’s precious Gift of Love could find no welcome there. The offer of heavenly peace and joy was short circuited by earthly pursuits.

Fortunately for us, even if the inns were full that night, the stables were not. Even if the town was too crowded, the countryside was still open. Room was found in a box where animals are fed. Space was made in the hearts of shepherds. And it was only in such lowly locations, among such humble folk, that God’s Gift of Love found a worthy reception. The circuit of peace and joy moved toward completion. Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to those who enjoy his favour.

All of which should lead us, sisters and brothers, to reflect on our own celebrations tonight. As you know, we gather here not just to commemorate an event that took place two thousand years ago. Not just to watch pageants. To sing carols. To exchange greetings. To admire pretty lights. And then to go home to open presents. Or to party the night away. We gather here to make space for the One who, even now, continues to look for room at the inn. We gather tonight to help each other to receive the One who is still knocking patiently and insistently on the doors of our hearts. Beckoning us first to experience for ourselves, and then to share with others, the deep joy and peace of his coming.

And yet, isn’t it true that it remains all too easy for us here in the city of Singapore, as it was for those in the town Bethlehem, to short circuit the process? To crowd our hearts and our lives with other concerns. Even concerns that may appear pious. But are actually self-serving. Isn’t it true, for example, that it’s possible to stress ourselves out perfecting our carols and arranging our decorations, and then fail to notice the Lord coming to us in the person(s) who may be most in need our care?

What then can we do to truly welcome Christ? To make room for him at the inn? To avoid short circuiting his loving intentions for us? The answer should be no surprise. To make room for Christ, the ego and its countless cravings must be set aside. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading, what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God. All our worldly ambitions. Only then can we truly become God’s own people, having no other ambition except to do good. ... To have no other ambition except to do good. Not easy to accomplish, sisters and brothers. Which is why it’s perhaps consoling for us to remember that Christmas doesn’t end with Midnight Mass. No, our celebrations are only just beginning. The season of Christmas will continue till the 12th of January. The feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Sisters and brothers, as we begin our joyful celebration of the Lord’s coming, what do you need to do to avoid a short circuit tonight?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord, I had just experienced a short-circuit in my strained (and broken) relationship with my father - on Christmas Day..

    somehow, dad went short-circuited and instead of peace and harmony, there was pains, divisions and conflicts at home.. it's like everything just went wrong... on Christmas Day...

    Lord, You are a God who restores peace, You have the power to restore and rebuild broken relationships - despite my own reservations and limtiations, may I ask You to come - to build up and restore all that is broken in my family...and in me..

    Lord, please show me what I need to do to side-step any future domestic short circuits which can become dangerous - in a spiritual sense.

    Lord, You were the LIGHT that shone in the darkness on the first Christmas Day...and now, You are still the same LIGHT that can shine brightly in lour darkness and pains...

    Come Lord Jesus - please come to bring us YOUR LIGHT which no darkness, evil and sin can ever overcome; YOUR LOVE which is the answer to all pains and misery and YOUR PEACE which the world cannot give.

    Come Lord Jesus - M - A - R - A - N - A - T - H - A.

    Seeing Is Believing
    26 December 2013 12:50am


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