Christmas

December 25, 2021

December 25, 2021

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December 25, 2021

Christmas

Ann M. Garrido

Ann M. Garrido

Garrido

Garrido

It would be so much easier, and I’m sure Mary would agree, if Jesus had arrived into the world the way that babies do in fairytales or in Harry Potter novels: dropped down the chimney by a stork, or bundled with a note and left on the doorstep. But the scriptures of this past week leading up to our celebration of Christmas as well as the rich array of readings that the feast itself offers remind us over and over again that such was not the case.  Jesus came into the world in the same way that every child comes into the world: nurtured within the womb of a woman, birthed by a woman.  

And for many of us who have nurtured life within our wombs and have birthed children, we hear but one scant verse from Matthew—“Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ”—or from Luke—”The time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son”—and our minds immediately fill in the blank spaces between those sparse words with all that goes unspoken.  Mornings of nausea.  Swollen breasts hard and heavy as rocks.  Clothes that fray at the seams.  The wonder of that first movement beneath one’s heart.  The fear of pain.  The pain itself.  The groaning, the embarrassment at groaning.  The blood.  The experience of squatting right at the edge between death and life.  The last wail of the mother.  The first wail of the child.

So much in this story that can be grasped only by those ready to imagine.  

But again, why this way and not another?

Perhaps because—while we can identify so strongly with Mary—it is actually telling us something very important about Christ:  that there is nothing—nothing—in our human existence that he does not enter into, including the experience of life in the womb and the travail of birth.  That he, like each of us, began the size of a mustard seed beneath his mother’s heart.  That he, like each of us, grew to the size of a grain of rice with only the faintest hint of a backbone before a real one stiffened.  With only nubs for arms and legs before he grew the fingers he would need to rub mud into the eyes of the blind man or the toes necessary to walk the winding roads of Galilee.  Like us, it would take time for him to develop the vocal cords he would one day need to chant the Shema or to preach on the mountainside.  It would take time to grow the ears to hear Mary’s lullabies and the cry of the poor.  It would take time to develop the digestive system that would make it possible to eat meals with Pharisees and tax collectors or with his closest friends on the night before he died.   Like us, in the weeks before his birth, his body would have gained the fat needed to survive winter nights and lean years.  And like us, before he grew too large, he would have turned downward to ready himself for that excruciating journey to greater life.  Just as he would again some thirty-odd-years later.

Because really there is only one other time each and every year when we ask that question, “Why this way and not another?”  It is Triduum.  And Christmas and Easter are two sides of the same coin.  Both tell us that there is nothing—nothing—that is human that God is not willing to enter into in solidarity with us. Neither conception and birth, nor life and death.  None of this is foreign to our God.   Yes, Christmas and Easter are two sides of the same coin: the coin with which our salvation is paid.

First Reading

PSALM

Second Reading

GOSPEL

Read texts at usccb.org

Ann M. Garrido

Ann M. Garrido


Ann Garrido is associate professor of homiletics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO.  While her first passion is teaching, Garrido has also served the school in a number of administrative roles including (at varying points in time) as Director of the Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching, Director of MAPS Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Director of Field Education, Director of Distance Learning, and Director of the Aquinas Ministry Integration Project. Most recently, Garrido served as the Marten Fellow in Preaching at the University of Notre Dame.

Garrido preaches each month for the Dominican website Word.op.org and is the author of numerous books, including the award-winning Redeeming Administration (Ave Maria Press, 2013) and Redeeming Conflict (Ave Maria Press, 2016).  Her recent book Let’s Talk about Truth (Ave Maria Press, 2020) took second place in the professional ministry category for the Catholic Media Association. She has visited all 50 states and 20 countries, having spoken in over 250 diocesan, university, parish, health care, educational, and business settings.

In 2013, Garrido affiliated with the Triad Consulting Group, a global corporate education and communications firm founded by two members of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  She now splits her time between her office in St. Louis, MO and  her apartment in Atlanta, GA where she resides with her very understanding husband.  Their ukulele-toting son makes appearances during winter and summer breaks.

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