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28.12.2020 15:16:29 359x read.
THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF CHRISTMAS (taken from IGC December 2020 issue, By Bro. Johan M.)


We are in the liturgical time of Advent, the time of longing, of expecting, of waiting. But for what or for whom are we waiting and longing? Now, in 2020, this Advent is for very many a time of deep insecurity, a time of unrest, a time when existing differences become shockingly clear, more than ever.

For me personally it is difficult to really get into contact with what pope Francis is talking about. I am absolutely not poor, I have great security in my life, I do not suffer from heat or drought or hunger, I have people around who take care of me when I am in trouble. I simply belong to the rich in this world, certainly to the well-to-do. And I think that most of us, brothers, are in the same situation.

It is difficult, I guess, for many of us, to really feel and experience the deep need of other people. Pope Francis writes in his recent book "A time for change" that he, because he himself went through a very dangerous situation of losing his life when he, as a young man of twenty, had severe lung problems, now feels what people experience when they, because of corona, are struggling for a bit of breath.

Looking back, our pope writes, this experience and a few other crises were a blessing to him, even when it was very painful when they took place. They helped him to be much closer to the need and pain of other people. But, he writes, this will never be easy. It is always challenging. It is always unsettling.

And yet: only when you dare to open yourself to the suffering and need of others, especially to the pain and anguish of those in your direct environment, then you really opt for the poor. Only practical commitment shows the honesty of your prayer.

God's loving hand


It is not easy to put into words the longing of people at the end of this year: Is it for the end of corona? Is it for the availability of an effective vaccine? Or is it the cure of the terrible economic and social disaster caused by covid-19? Or, maybe, the cure of the psychologi- cal effects to the millions who,

together with material and social loss, lost hope and perspective in life?

Yes, what are we longing for?


In fact the pandemic is just a new revelation of what is going on already for decades. We have been warned so often, but time and again we humans knew better. And many of us still know better. The climate deniers, the anti-science, and especially the indifferent - the worst group according to pope Francis.
Perhaps you get tired, just as I do now and then, when we hear again the long list of needs, the cry of the poor and the scream of the earth. - And yet we should be ready to be disturbed, to be challenged and to act much more...



The Christmas story is so shocking, because the evangelists want to make clear that God really identified with poor people, simple people, despised people. This is something not many people can believe. This is too challenging. It is unimaginable. We Christians confess this God- becoming-human, but we too are still far underway to understand what that really means and to accept it in its far reaching consequences. In John's gospel we read: God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
Have you ever noticed that John does not says: God sent his Son so that HUMANS might be saved, but that THE WORLD might be saved? God loves not only us human beings but in his love God embraces ALL he has created. This awareness has huge consequences for how we treat, not only other human beings, but all living nature, all animals, all plants and even all so-called life-less nature!
Beware: not only mistreating human beings, but also animals and plants, and also e.g. spoiling water, destroying the environment, polluting the air, robbing the woods, all these are direct offences of God. This, for me, is such a shocking awareness! But it is true: When I depreciate or mistreat someone or something which is dear to somebody else, I offend that other person herself or himself! And this certainly holds for our Creator who full of love embraces ALL that exists. - This awareness makes me deeply silent...

This, according to me, is the essential message of Christmas! Christmas is not only about an individual person, Jesus, but about the whole of creation, the whole universe. By completely identifying with one material human being God identifies with the whole material reality. In this complete identification with the material human being Jesus, God affirms what in fact is the case from the very beginning of creation. In several of the letters by Paul, and so too in the beginning of the gospel of John, this is worded unequivocally: from eternity already, and especially in Jesus, God is deeply involved in his Creation. How much respect deserves all that exists!


As people of faith we may proclaim this unimaginable mystery: God showed his love not only in the person of Jesus, not only in all persons of good will, but also in the goodness, the beauty, the fertility and the unity of ALL creation. And so also in the salvation, the redemption of this whole creation - like e.g. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans. God's love for all is not a nice sentence in our prayer book or an item in our catechism, but a reality, with all its encompassing consequences. This is very meaningful. It is not only an invitation to great commitment but also and above all a strong assurance and encouragement, because we certainly are not alone! We are not left to a blind fate (as many people think in these difficult times). By God's Spirit we are abundantly blessed, helped, accompanied and deeply related to the whole creation. It is by that same Spirit that was the source of the divine life in Jesus.

The power of life


This awareness leads to a different mindset, a different vision, a different attitude, a deeper prayerful understanding of the events and finally a different way of thinking and acting.
Let me give some examples:

.* We may understand the outbreak of the covid-19 also as a strong wake up call, within the framework of the much greater, but so often denied, climate disaster of which many more millions of people suffer worldwide than from covid-19.

* We hear the call of the importance of community, solidarity, compassion and mutual support, the value of quality time together with our loved ones and of consciously tightening the bonds we so easily take for granted.

* Even when we are inundated by the media with messages of what is wrong and does not work, we, inspired by our faith, shift our focus to what does work, and that the impossible becomes possible for those who have the courage to begin.

* We are grateful for the human genius, for all scientific and technological advancements: not only because they make our life easier, but also for their contribution to more communication, more knowledge, e.g. in health care, the raised general awareness of the evils in our societies - and also of the other side of the coin: the inspiring information about the countless courageous endeavors to cure and improve these situations.

* We start to appreciate much deeper the inherent life-power in all that exists and that we may trust this benevolence in creation. When we listen more and adjust better, nature offers all of us abundance of life!

* Finally: We hear the call for deeper and more courageous renewal and change in many areas. Not only by our own strength, but - as pope Francis repeats - by opening us to the creative Spirit that works in silence but irresistibly effective. Dare to dream, he repeats, and believe in the fertility of every small but convinced beginning, which will regenerate our world. We certainly are in the midst of a transition to a new time, in which all of us are involved. Not all of us will clearly see the changes, but when we are grateful and silent, when we are prayerfully listening, then we can already hear its breathing - as a sufi mystic tells us.

Prayerful listening

The encouragement of Christmas: a source of deep understanding, of strong confidence, of great zeal and of invincible joy! Our prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Maranata) is now a cosmic cry, full of hope and confidence!

Happy Christmas! Johan Muijtjens f.i.c.

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