(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)
If we were asked to describe the meaning of Christmas, how would we reply? Would we speak of a societal surge in buying to strengthen the economy? Economic activity is certainly characteristic of the celebration of Christmas but hardly explains its meaning. Would we offer the experience of family togetherness about the decorated fur tree? Surely many people celebrate Christmas “at home” with loved ones who have cared for them all their lives. But there is a deeper, more comprehensive meaning that we would want to relate.
We hardly could find a better description of the meaning of Christmas that the familiar verse from the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son...” At Christmas we rejoice in our certainty of God’s love and marvel at its enormity. God’s love moves us to come out of ourselves – to share what we have with others, not just our families but with friends and needy people around the world.
The reading from the First Letter of John explains some of the dynamic of divine love. God shares his Spirit of love with us. This Spirit drives out the fear that distances us both from God and from one another. We no longer resent God as a judge who might condemn us; rather, we love Him as a Father who will bestow on us eternal life. Likewise, we know that other people cannot do permanent harm to us because God promises us eternal life. We wish to care for them out of imitation of our benevolent Father.