Frater has a not-to-be-missed post about Incarnation and Resurrection: We are a Christmas People. He backs up his theory with quotes and prayers from St. Clare of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today.
And he’s right. We are a Christmas people. And that has nothing to do with buying presents.
I think it is a particularly Franciscan way of thinking. Yes, Easter is essential to our faith. You can’t get to Easter without going through Good Friday. But you also can’t get to Easter without Christmas. Without the Incarnation, there could be no Resurrection. Think about the foreshadowing that Simeon provided to the Blessed Mother at the Presentation of the Lord (Luke 2: 34-35). Sister Jane Kopas, OSF writes:
Thanks to Francis, human emotion and events in the life of Jesus took center stage. It was he who originated the idea of the Christmas crèche in the little town of Greccio. The human Jesus was so real to him that he wished to celebrate his humanity. The reality of the poor Jesus in the birth scene has touched the minds and hearts of his contemporaries and people for centuries since then. The deepest mirroring of the life of Jesus came late in his life….Two years before he died, his identification with the suffering of Jesus manifested itself physically. While he was caught up in prayer in a mountain retreat, he had a vision of a six-winged seraph that penetrated his very being and left him with the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, in his feet, hands, and side. For the rest of his life he tried to hide these marks so as not to draw attention to himself.
So even in two of Francis’ more famous moments–the Greccio, and the Stigmata, he highlights the birth and death of Jesus.
Ultimately it is all about humility. And that’s also a particularly Franciscan thing. You don’t get much more humble than those early Friars and Sisters who gave up everything, kept nothing, in order to gain the treasure of Heaven. And you don’t get any more humble than Jesus, who was born in a stable and slept in a manger–and who grew up to lay down His very life as a sacrifice to His Father for OUR sins. From beginning to end, Jesus modeled the kind of humility that Franciscans strive to imitate.
Humility is countercultural. In our world, it is considered a bad thing to be humble, to put aside one’s own wants and even needs for the sake of someone (or Someone) else. Humility just doesn’t go along with the “I’m worth it” and “I deserve it” attitude that is encouraged today. Humility is hard. We want what we want, when we want it. But humility requires sacrifice.
Ultimately, the major feasts of our Church all celebrate humility, and the willingness to lay aside one’s own wants, needs and desires for the sake of something even greater. Jesus did it. The Blessed Mother did it. All the saints did it. Can we?