December 23, 2016

George Weigel: Christmas and the Divine Proximity

The Adoration of the Shepherds
The Adoration of the Shepherds, Mattia Preti, c. 1660.

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in his weekly column The Catholic Difference on December 21, 2016 about a long conversation he had with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger weeks after 9/11. Ratzinger's observations about Christianity in Europe, moral relativism, and the dangers posed by radicalized Islamists have only grow more salient with time.

In concluding, Weigel brilliantly summarizes the state of Western culture as one of loneliness, despair and alienation. Fortunately, for the Christian, the way, the truth and the life is not some abstract or sentimental aspiration. It is a person, Jesus Christ, whose birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Weigel writes:

"Christmas reminds us what Christians have to say to this pervasive loneliness. We say 'God is with us,' as throughout the Christmas season we celebrate the divine answer to the Advent plea, 'O come, o come Emmanuel.' That plea did not go unrequited. We see the answer to it in the crèches in our homes. God is with us, not in awe and majesty, but in that most accessible of human forms, the baby who reaches out for our embrace.

God is Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the midst of our lives, not outside them. A few years ago I began collecting Fontanini crèche figures, and while the display is now as big as it’s going to get, there’s a reason why the manger in our crèche is surrounded by dozens of figures: Decoratively speaking, that’s the best way to express my conviction that the Lord of history came into history to redeem history in the midst of history.

He is Emmanuel. He is God-with-us. We are not alone."

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