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Christmas Day

“When Irish eyes are smiling, sure the whole world smiles with you.” I once remember a cousin of mine bringing her new born to see my mum. My mum’s face lit up as she took the child in her arms. Her Irish eyes seemed to get bigger and her voice get louder as she exclaimed in her Portaferry accent, “my wee darling!” And the baby, as if aware of the joy it was giving, gurgled back its own smile, face alight.

I’m not sure how you would say, “my wee darling” in Aramaic, the language of Mary, but I can imagine Her face lighting up and Her eyes dilating as she took Her wee darling in Her arms. It’s hard to imagine anything more tender than mother and child. And we know how important that embrace and that smile are for a child to grow up healthy.

The light on Mary’s face and shining back from the child Jesus sums up what we need to know about Christmas. Between these two sinless souls, the new Eve and the new Adam, is restored to humanity the light lost by the first Adam and Eve. That light first shone from the face of God upon his beloved human creatures, and although sin plunged us into darkness, the jealous love of God never intended it to last for ever. He knew he would restore the light, the smile, to our faces. He knew the whole world, humanity and creation, would once more smile again in response to his jealous love.

It’s easy to know which light was brighter between that of the star and that on the face of Mary and Jesus. The people that dwelt in darkness has seen a great light, says Isaiah, and that great light is the One whom we profess in the Creed to be Light from Light.

The Christmas message is that the eyes of God are alight with the tender love of a Mother for every human being. It is that that love is personified in the child of Mary. It is that that love is a light which banishes from creation itself the darkness of sin. It is that, even if mother or father could forget their own child, the Lord will never forget. It is that no kind or intensity of darkness, no matter how thick and deep, can overcome the Light of Christ. It is that by taking on our flesh and taking to Himself our darkness and our death, the child in the manger, who becomes the man on the Cross and in the tomb, will shine forth a light in his Resurrection that darkness cannot overpower.

Christmas means that no situation is hopeless, that no evil will have the last word in our lives as individuals, families or communities. It means that no cynicism or treachery, no violence or injustice, no arrogance or pride will define the outcome of history. In personal terms, it means that no sin, no wound of the heart or memory, no shame, grief or regret, no inadequacy or moral, physical or psychological handicap, no addiction or corruption is beyond the healing and redeeming love of Jesus Christ.

But we each need to take the child in our arms and let His light shine upon us and penetrate into us. We need to let His smile disarm us of our fake seriousness and self-concern. We need to find it in us to let go of our stiffness and apathy and to say to the child with tender simplicity, “O Jesus, my wee darling!” Then His Light, the true Light of Christmas, the Star that never sets, will restore the smile to our faces and hearts.

No matter how dark it may sometimes seem, His Light always shines for you. Never forget it, for He never will forget you.

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