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December 15, 2014

Christmas is the joyous celebration of the Son of God's incarnation as a human person who walked in our midst and brought salvation. Our contemporary celebrations of Christmas, ever more ridiculous with each passing year, obscure the meaning of this great feast behind a curtain of gift-giving, parties, turkey dinners and family visits. None of these things is bad in itself; indeed, each is typically good and salutary.

Yet, they do cover over the central meaning of Christmas, that of salvation. We easily become caught up in the busy-ness and bonhomie of the season so that we have little opportunity or inclination to ask what we are being saved from, what we are being saved for and how we are in fact being saved.

We have a great need to feel the necessity of salvation – to experience in our hearts the alienation from God and from each other, to feel the crass depersonalization of 21st century society and to come face-to-face with our own indifference to evil. To truly know this need for salvation might well be more than one human heart can bear.

No one knew the necessity of salvation more than Jesus did. Because of Jesus' total intimacy with the Father, with the source of all that is true, good and beautiful, he saw and experienced all in the world that was estranged from the Father's love. His clear understanding of the pain of alienation was one factor that led others to crucify him.

A meaningful preparation for Christmas confronts the varied faces of evil in our world and in our own lives. It is a preparation that understands and feels the need for salvation.

Christmas, however, is a feast of rejoicing, not a dour experience of personal and collective guilt. Evil does not have the last word. It is the adult Christ we celebrate at Christmas, the Christ who reigns victorious over evil, who delivered it a crushing blow through his cross and resurrection.

The resurrection provides the framework for rejoicing. As prevalent as evil remains in our world – and this past year provided abundant evidence of that – the victory has been won, and the war is in a final mopping up stage.

Salvation is ours. It was been won, not just for the pious, but for all humanity so that we can and already do share in divine life. The real story is that God created us to share in his life, and that even when we were far away, he came running and leaping over all barriers to ensure that we would not only not lose that life, but share in it more abundantly.

Our need for salvation is real; that Jesus has won our salvation is cause for the greatest rejoicing.