A visitor from outer space might be forgiven for not seeing the connection between what happened 2000 years ago and how we celebrate it the last week of December each year.

Our version of celebrating Christmas often has little to do with the reality behind Christmas.

Those days 2000 years ago are history.

Today we face polarization and conflict… even around our Christmas tables.

These days, chaotic and commercialized, press in our consciousness. Who has time to think about the deeper dimensions of Christmas or Christ’s Mass?

In this Vincentian Mindwalk Let’s explore the forgotten traumas of the first Christmas.

Is there any room in the inns of our lives?

In my lifetime, I have noticed a great shift in the kind of greeting cards people send one another.  They used to feature scenes celebrating some aspects of Christ’s birth.  Now so many focus on celebrating their family through sharing family pictures. Of course, we can and should celebrate our families … but are we losing sight of “reason for the season?”

Another interesting question to ask today is how many Chrisians will, with their families, gather in Eucharist to celebrate with the larger family of believers to which we belong?

At best, on Christmas day, we set aside one hour out of the 168 hours in a week. But even that one hour is distracted by thoughts of what we still must do for the rest of the day. Our inner worlds are “heavy burdened.”

Yes, the days long ago brought “glad tidings.” But so often, we have succeeded in separating even the glad tidings from the traumas surrounding Christ’s birth.

Forgotten traumas of the first Christmas

Today we rarely have the time and psychic energy to wrestle with the reality of the circumstances of what happened on the first Christmas.

We gloss over the news that Jesus’ arrival

  • confused Mary when she was told about it;
  • caused Joseph to consider divorce;
  • and, in King Herod, ignited a genocidal fury. 

Perhaps because he wanted to know how rich he was Herod calls a census! That meant everyone had travel to their native towns. Whether they liked it or not!

Once Jesus is born,

  • Mary and Joseph had to flee Bethlehem to evade Herod’s assassins. 
  • The Holy Innocents were born “around the time Jesus was born.” For this they paid with their lives and parents weep bitterly!
  • The Holy Family must wait in a strange land until an angel tells Joseph to return.
  • Joseph, warned by another angel, decides to relocate to Nazareth. 

Real people 2000 years ago experienced a mix of joy and confusion, happiness and worry. All were part of the first Christmas.

Challenge – connect past realities with our present realities

Who has time, to realize that each of the people at that time is, in a way, still alive in us today?

There is a Herod who hides in us all.

So does an innkeeper who had no clue about the identity of this literally poor traveling family.

Do we see ourselves as Joseph concerned with feeding and protecting his family. Or Mary wanting at least the basics for her son?

Can we be Shepherds and angels tell of the “Good News”!  What is that Good News for today?

Are we among the many sleeping inhabitants of Bethlehem and the surrounding lands who had no clue about what was happening in their midst?

And what about the seekers from the fringes in our midst?

An invitation…

Take just 5 minutes each day to think of the forgotten traumas of those days and imagine yourself as one of the figures in your favorite nativity scene.