After Mass yesterday morning I knelt in front of the Nativity set up in front of the altar. Aside from the fact that I am one of those liturgical purists who object to anything set up in front of the altar, what really stood out for me was that the image of the Child Jesus was directly in line with the Crucifix on the wall behind the altar. The Child's arms were spread open as were Jesus' arms on the Cross. The arms were both in the same position showing me that we cannot gaze upon and meditate on the Child in the manger without it leading us to the Cross. If it doesn't, then the nativity of Jesus it is just a nice sentimental story, a peaceful scene that makes us feel good. If we don't see the Cross in that peaceful manger scene then the whole Christmas story means nothing.
Jesus is God assuming our human flesh, our frailties, our pains and our sorrows. He came in innocence and died as an innocent person. His coming leads to death, but not in the way we might think of it. It is death to sin. His suffering, His death leads to new life. His suffering and death shows us that only in suffering with Him do we rise with Him.
Many years ago I heard a priest say in a homily that from the Manger Jesus looked upon the beams of the stable which would one day be the wood that would make up His Cross. I dismissed the story at the time as simply a pious sentimental legend considering that Jesus was probably born in a cave and place in a feeding trough hewn out of rock. But the concept that His birth led to the Cross is undeniable.
So what does this mean for me? It means that I can find Christmas peace not in the cute, weak, perfect image of the Baby in the manger, but in the strong yet broken body of the God/Man on the Cross. That is where my peace lies, that is where the spirit of Christmas shines forth for me this year. Not from the light of the star but from the merciful rays of light that emanate from His wounds.