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Monday, December 9, 2013


Christmas has never been magical, 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 has never been 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 is 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. I think it's okay for the children to believe in the magic, since that magic is too soon taken away from them.

  2. D.G.:
    Magic is what makes Christmas Christmas for children. Magic sadly has a short shelf life these days for children.

    I talk more about magic and Christmas in the next post. :-)

  3. It wasn't magic - it was Divine. God walked the earth as a real man and defeated death for us.

  4. Alex:
    Exactly. We do our children no favors by insisting Santa Claus is real and when they discover the truth, they associate the Nativity Miracle with the false Santa. :-(