One of the best and most enjoyable novels ever to have utterly captivated me was “A Prayer for Owen Meany”, by American writer John Irving. Among the intricacies of this compellingly entertaining story, the chronicle deals with a succession of spiritual issues, such as matters of faith, social justice, and the concept of fate, in the context of a bizarre narrative.
John Wheelwright tells of his childhood, when his best friend, Owen Meany, made him believe in God. Owen was an eccentrically weird, tiny dwarfish child, with strangely luminous skin, and an unearthly nasal voice. In a diarized entry at the beginning of one Holy Week, Wheelwright expressed his apprehension that the Resurrection wouldn’t happen that year. He knew what his friend, Owen, would say, “IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN EASTER . . . DON’T KID YOURSELF–DON’T CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN.”
It bears considering, doesn’t it? Churches full for Christmas, seem considerably depleted, in comparison, at Easter. However, in truth, the Passion of Jesus begins with the Incarnation. It is significant that in Advent, we contemplate the coming of the Christ in lowliness, and recognise the infinite humility of the Creator's Son, who did not hesitate to become human? His search for shelter, with Mary and Joseph, was, in a real sense, a ‘Way of the Cross’ for him, who suffers even as He comes to his own world. Even his own people did not receive Him. Bethlehem is a “Mount of Olives”, too: Mary and Joseph suffered anguish with him, as they were denied comfortable lodging for their son, God’s Son, who was entrusted to their care. So, too, the ‘stable’ of Bethlehem is similarly a Golgotha, where Christ begins his life in a wooden manger and, 33 years later, submits to the wood of the Cross.
The Passion of Christ began with the Incarnation, and continued through his birth in a cold, unsterile stable, and is part and parcel of the same story that led to his Passion and death on the Cross.
Quite a perspective to consider while so many personal Christmases are indulged with profligacy, as other’s Christmases are meagre, lonely and desolate, in a selfish world of commercial abundance! Owen Meany presents quite a challenge, I think!
I pray that you embrace the joy, hope and generosity of the real spirit of Christmas, and may God bless you in your holy observance, and for the New Year.
Love, as ever, Brian.