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Tuesday, December 12, 2017


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. What a truly profound post, Roland. We so often forget about the violence and bloodshed that followed the nativity. And so many people don't want to acknowledge that Joseph and Mary and their infant became refugees and immigrants by escaping to Egypt. How many refugees are we turning away?

    1. The world has never been kind to immigrants, has it? Thanks for the nice compliment.:-)

  2. So true that "society [is] deaf to the needs of those without power!" It's always been that way and I doubt it will ever change, unfortunately.

    1. Sigh, nor do I, David. The Bible cautions us to treat strangers well for in so doing many have befriended "angels unaware."

  3. I like Christmas from my childhood, from a time when I didn't know any better. When I didn't know that not all children had as good a life as I did, that not far away Jews were held in concentration camps. I'm always aware of what goes on in this world, but I like to bring back that innocence for my Christmas Eve. As far as being an immigrant goes: Coming to America, you have a huge advantage looking like I did. A six ft tall, blond, blue-eyed Swede. That's all you need for a good life here. And isn't that a terrible shame? Makes me sick to think about it.

    1. Perhaps that is the true magic of Christmas: to let us feel the innocence of childhood again if only fleetingly. :-)