Outside the Box

Outside the Box

There is Joy Outside the Box
By Pastor Mark B. Augusto, Minister for Students and Campus Chaplaincy

Luke 2: 1-20

As 2014 has come to an end, we also welcome the New Year. As we celebrate, it is our prayer that we will approach 2015 in the spirit of God’s grace and love.

As a community of faith, we continue to give thanks to God for God’s gift of life and love in Jesus Christ. Is the spirit of Christmas still in the air? Well, many of us anticipated that holiday season because it is in that time of year where there are many parties, gift-giving and the opportunity to have a vacation where we can enjoy the time to be with friends and relatives.

However, I have observed that Christmas has been changing throughout the years. Instead of focusing on Jesus Christ, the merry-making, or Santa Clause has become a more prominent figure.And sometimes we associate the celebration of that holiday season only with good food, great parties, and receiving of gifts. And if we do not experience these, it is as if, we have an empty and sad Christmas, or worse, we feel that we have not celebrated Christmas at all.

Truly, the story of the birth of Christ and its true significance has often been clouded by the commercialism of the season. There is a very frenzied pace to these days which can so easily depersonalize us and dampen the true joy of the season. To some extent, we have been so blinded by the association of Christmas with abundance of food, parties here and there, and material gift-giving that we tend to be swept away from the real essence of celebrating Christmas: that is, celebrating Jesus’ birth and remembering the hardship and simplicity that it signified. Because of this, there is now a need for us to seek the Lord with an open heart as the shepherds and the wise men did. This means that we can continue to make sense and meaning of the coming of Christ in a joyful and special manner even if we continue to celebrate and rejoice God’s Incarnation in Jesus Christ outside the box,the notion that Christmas is all about material abundance, and outside the box that capitalism has created to define that season. 

May I then invite us all to remember that the birth of Christ is not grandiose; it was a picture of simplicity. And that the simplicity of the story of Christ’s birth in a manger reveals the depth of God’s love and the mystery of God’s actions in our life even as we begin anew this year. As we continue to celebrate Christ’s birth, once again Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, the angels and animals direct our attention to the Lord Jesus. He who is truly “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14: 6) who reveals himself in the humble circumstances in Bethlehem.

The Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is a vivid reminder of the depth of God’s love to us. It is in simplicity and mystery that an infinite God dwells among us and accepted the limitations of our humanity. It was not enough for God to act through signs and wonders of the physical world. It was not enough for God to guide us through the prophets and the teachers of old. No, this was not enough for God. To express his boundless love for us, the living and loving God appeared among us in Jesus Christ. And that by fully identifying himself with us, Christ has come to teach us about the simplicity and mystery of life and faith, Christ has come to heal and lead us back to a realization that more than anything else, we shall continue to celebrate God’s presence with joy in our hearts, and to do it outside the box,outside the twisted norm and the box that the capitalist world has created in defining his coming and presence with us.

As Christ taught us many things in his ministry, let us remember that Christ revealed God’s love for us through the simple events of his birth. Christ demonstrated God’s love for us simply by entering into our life and by sharing in all that is human. Whether we see him as the child in Bethlehem, the teacher in Galilee, or the Risen Lord in Jerusalem; in simplicity and mystery, Christ is truly the greatest gift of God for us and for our salvation. And in the simple circumstances on his birth, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth….” (John 1: 14)        

Friends, there is joy in the presence  of Christ even as the Lord reveals that God act in ways that we do not always expect.For we cannot shape or put inside the box the mighty acts of God to our limited understanding. For God is greater than our limited perceptions, God is beyond any box we create. God act in mysterious ways and wondrous ways to draw us to him and to one another in love. 

As each of those who are involved in the story of Christ’s birth opened their hearts to the actions of the Lord who mysteriously led them to Bethlehem, this year, let us also permit God to act in our lives as individuals and as a church. As we do so, let us remember that there is joy in celebrating the presence of Christ, the Emmanuel, there is joy outside the box. Blessings be to all of us! Amen….