Signs are important things, especially street signs; they tell us a lot. I notice kids love to twist signs around so they point in the wrong direction, maybe we’ve even done it ourselves, and most of us would have been a victim of that little trick once or twice in our lives. Luckily I can usually tell right away they have been tampered with so I don’t get lost too often.
Actually, it’s a question of power. Street signs are very powerful things. They point out the direction to what we’re looking for.
To change a street sign around so that it faces in a wrong direction can cause a great deal of trouble to people and sometimes, to see someone heading off in exactly the wrong direction because you have changed the sign around can be sort of amusing, so long as no harm comes of it.
Do you know, some adults enjoy changing the signs around too? No, I’m not speaking about the street signs, I am talking about far more important signs than that; I am talking about the signs that point us to the most important things in life.
The world is very good at changing the signs. For the world the sign to happiness says: money, fame, consumerism, drugs; popular consensus, and so on, and so on.
At this time of Christmas, to a world immersed in individualism, confusion, hedonism and violence, God gives a sign. It is a sign pointing to all that is good. It is the way to truth and life … a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
A baby … human, small, humble, needy, innocent and vulnerable.
A baby is all that we are right now, no matter whether we are eight or eighty, and we’ll never be anything more. A baby is what God holds up to this activity-centered, moneymaking, and kingdom-building world; and the kingdom doesn’t have to be big. Anything that ‘possesses’ us, whether it be our post stamps collection, work, sports, boyfriend or girlfriend, our spouse, our children or our grand-children, is our kingdom.
Anything which makes us believe we are a more than we really are, whether it be our house, our ‘connections’, or our job; anything at all that makes us forget who we are, what we are – God’s little baby – that is for us the sign pointed in the wrong direction. We are, you are Gods beloved baby!
But this baby is Jesus – human and divine, God and man, God and neighbor. He is The Baby, the only begotten of the Father, the Beloved One, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The tiny infant is surrounded by the swaddling clothes in the same way as he is wrapped round by the love of Mary and Joseph, his parents, as he is wrapped round by the love of God. We are all God’s little children and he loves us all like that; his love wraps itself around us and he cares for us every day. However, we need to understand that his care for us extends beyond the confines of this mortal life; his care is to get us to heaven.
If we are God’s little baby we will allow ourselves to be bound by him; we will allow him to give us our security. We will keep his commandments and follow his ways. We will remain in his family the Church, where he can look after us, give us his graces for us to grow, forgive our sins in Confession and feed us with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. In other words, we will express our littleness through obedience to God’s little baby.
How unfortunate it is that we may live much of our day without realizing even how precious we are to God, that we are worthy of Jesus precious blood and his life.
Our Savior was born in a stable and laid in a manger, not in a mansion, not even in a one-bedroom apartment. The sign is saying: happiness and peace – this way please!
And we don’t really need a lot. Jesus shows us that.
Of course, the Child is not just lying there all by himself. Close by is a loving mother and a loving father. They are to the infant what water is to the fish; they are the natural environment, the Eco-system each child should have.
God’s sign to happiness is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It’s up to us to stop the world from turning this sign around.