December 25, 2022

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Year A
Fr. Jonathan Reardon

I am a Christmas movie junkie! All the classics I watch every year… Rudolph, Frosty, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th St., Charlie Brown, It’s a Wonder Life… and so on… This year I got behind on my shows – so a few weeks ago, I had some unusual free time and started to catch up… I was watching Santa Claus is Coming to Town and noticed something in that movie I had never caught before…. Kris Kringle was heading out of Sombertown and he got caught by the Winter Warlock in his magical trees… Before he meets what, he thinks would be his demise, Kris offers Mr. Warlock a gift. No one had ever given Mr. Warlock a gift before. Now, if you have seen the movie you know, Mr. Warlock looks like a scary old man… a frightening figure. Yet, once he receives Kris’s gift, that scary appearance faded away … “that is my cold, icy heart, melting away…,” said Mr. Warlock. Also noteworthy is how he is wanted to be addressed. Kris asks: “Can I call you Winter?” “Mr. Warlock, if you please…” But as soon as his heart is softened, he insists on being called “Winter” … His name. As Winter opens his cold heart to receive this precious gift – something he has always wanted, that brought him so much joy, he begins to become his true self. His real identity begins to shine…

In the narrative of the Christmas story – from the Annunciation to Joseph’s dream, to the appearance of the angels to the shepherds – we hear echoed throughout: “do not be afraid.” Mary – do not be afraid to receive this child in your womb; Joseph – do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife into your home; shepherds – do not be afraid, we bring news of great joy…A savior is born…” There is a clear message here … but what is there to be fearful of … It seems to me that every time I hear this, I can’t help but think – do not be afraid to receive this gift. Do not be afraid to receive Christ. Do not be afraid to let God lead … Don’t get in the way… don’t put up walls … do not become cold and distant – for that only prevents us from becoming our true selves…

You see, this is what Winter Warlock teaches us … His cold, distant heart, was open to receiving Kris’s gift. And it softened him… It helped him see himself, his real identity – not as a monster but as person… then they sang that famous song – “One foot in front of the other…” Because it takes time, it takes discipline and effort to make progress in the spiritual life, to grow and mature… And that is precisely what scares many of us… It isn’t that we are afraid of Christ, we are afraid of ourselves, of what receiving this great gift of God may reveal to us … the fact that it causes us to grow and mature and that hurts sometimes… But the reality is simple… we are not ourselves without Christ. We cannot become the men and women God created us to be unless we drop the fear and be open to receive …

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