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Friday, December 2, 2016


Some say Christmas has never been magical, not even from the beginning.

We tend to overlook that the Holy Birth occurred in Bethlehem because of an act of oppression, and the threat of violence,

 when a man and woman were forced to travel from Nazareth to their ancestral home 

by the decree of an occupying army in the final days of the young woman’s pregnancy.

And, although we tend to be only vaguely aware of it, the massacre of innocents is woven inextricably into the story.

Only three days after Christmas Day, on Dec. 28, the Church’s calendar remembers the other children of Bethlehem,

the ones left behind when Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety following an angelic warning, 

the ones slaughtered by King Herod in a fearful rage.

Magic in Christmas? 

No matter how much we might like to make it so, magic was not prominent in these events.

Though we may rarely come to terms with it, 

the Christmas story begins and ends in violence.

We should not be surprised.

We should not be surprised that the incarnation of good, of which the innocence of all children reminds us

is not received either warmly or passively by the presence of evil.

Sometimes that evil finds its expression in armies of violence, sometimes in greed and fear and power,

and sometimes in clouds of darkness that overtake and consume those among us most vulnerable

to delusion left to their own devices by a society deaf to the needs of those without power: the old, the mentally ill, the poor.

The thought that there is no magic in Christmas might even do some good:

Magic too easily lets us off the hook for the role we are called to play in the story,

the story of goodness being birthed in the world, 

the story of light that the darkness would overcome, the story of innocence confronted by evil, the story of Christ.

No, there is no magic.

What there is is an age-old struggle with evil that comes in many forms.

Christmas comes into play, 

not because it represents even a temporary respite from reality, 

but because the birth of incarnate love lays bare the reality 

that it is the evil that does not belong here. 

The birth of incarnate love lays bare that the slaughter of innocents in whatever form, 

child or adult, finds no place, no home, no tolerance, no business as usual in the world of which God dreams.

And once we are robbed of the magic of Christmas, we begin, maybe, to grasp its reality. 

The reality is that the birth of the Christ child does not cast a magical spell rendering the presence of evil ineffectual.

It does not relieve humankind of the hell-before hell we have made of this world. 

Rather, it invites us to participate in its redemption.

The birth of the Christ child is not a tool for us to use, like sorcerer’s apprentices, 

magically relieving us from doing the hard work that needs to be done. 

It is a call to action.

God has entered the world in a profoundly real, not magical, way. 

And that in this particular child, Light has come into the world,

 and the darkness did not, and will not, overcome it.



  1. Well said! Evil does not belong here. (And one day it will be cast out.)
    That first Christmas was a miracle, not magic.

    1. Evil is an unwanted squatter on our planet, right?

  2. Children have to face reality soon enough, and if a little magic cushions them for a few years, I see nothing wrong with that. There will be plenty of time for them to face the realities, brutal and not, that life forces them to deal with. A parent wants to protect their children, and a little fantasy can be combined with the religious aspect of Christmas. Let kids be kids for a little while says this parent. I'm annoyed at those who say 'it's a big lie we tell our kids', it sounds like a millenial whine. So, zombies are okay - a lie as well since at present they don't exist, but not Santa stories?? Hmmmm.

    1. The magic is, indeed, for children. I took a tack to make us adults think. The next post is all about the need for Christmas Magic. :-)

  3. The beginning was dark, but light and magic eventually ruled.