Probably my favorite Christmas carol is a poem written in the 19th century and put to music and made popular by the Lessons & Carols of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. It usually begins with a solo voice singing the first verse and crescendos to full choir and organ by the last. It describes the humble origins of Jesus birth and goes on to describe Christ’s purpose for coming and our purpose in following him. The last line of the last verse of the song reads: And He leads His children on, to the place where He is gone. Are we really willing to go where He is gone?
To celebrate most appropriately this Christmas season we must go where Jesus has gone. We are called to step into the lowliness of humility. We are invited into the stable, to think less of ourselves and our own exaltation, and be willing to be emptied and laid low. The season doesn’t seem to want to celebrate that. It constantly wants to decorate our lives with lights, and ribbons, and garland. While beautiful, let it not mask the reality of our existence. Our lives on earth are most beautiful in their simplicity when we accept ourselves, our situation, and one another as we are – without the decoration. It is only in this way that we can truly appreciate God in a manger. It is then that we can celebrate the simple joy of our humble God who loves us so much as to be able to be with us in our lowliness.
Enjoy the Christmas decorations not as a mask for what is, but rather as a call to what is to come. To properly celebrate the Christmas season we need to see the beauty of “where He is gone” and that is what twinkle lights do – they point to the beauty of Royal David’s City – our ultimate destination. But until we celebrate that blessing, let us first celebrate the joy of Emmanuel – God with us in our lowliness. Let us welcome our God into our lives that more often resemble the sounds, smells and look of a messy stable than the beauty of Christmas lights and carols. In our ministry at the Duke Catholic Center we are honored to share our life in Christ with wonderful students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. While lowliness is not a word too often used on Duke’s campus, I see it in the humble faithfulness of so many of you. I am blessed to walk with you as “He leads His children on, to the place where He is gone.” Merry Christmas!!!
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