The Simplicity of Christmas by Rev Johann B.G. Roten, s.m.r


Jesus Christ the Redeemer came as a helpless infant. He wanted to be like one of us. Moreover, he didn’t want to distract people from his true origin. Would he have come as a king, people would have bowed before him as they do in front of worldly potentates. So he came as a child to point out his origin in God and from God.

We read in the Hebrew Scripture that during the days when God appointed Judges, the Ark of the Covenant was lost. The high priest commissioned that every artisan throughout Israel craft a new ark, one that would be a fitting and appropriate replacement for the old one. Then God himself could choose its worthy successor. Every craftsman without exception set about the task of building a truly noble and worthwhile replacement for the Ark. When the day of decision finally arrived, there lay spread before the people of Israel chests of wood and stone and bronze and silver and gold. Before each ark the high priest cast his sacred die to determine the Lord’s choice. One model after the other was rejected. Then the high priest arrived at Joseph’s ark. Joseph was a poor carpenter with only normal ability but deep devotion to God. His ark was painfully simple and decidedly lackluster. When the die turned up positive the people were outspokenly upset. "Does God reject the very talent he has given to these gifted craftsmen?" they shouted.

Yielding to pressure, the high priest cast the die again. Again the choice fell upon Joseph’s ark. He was forced to try for the third time. The result was the same. Amid cries of protest, God's voice from heaven was heard to say: "With a wondrous ark, my people may get lost in the beauty of their own work. With a simple and humble ark, there will be nothing to distract them. Then they will think of me, and not of themselves."

The Christ Child is like this simple and humble ark. Seeing him we will be reminded of God, and not be distracted by our own ways and plans of saving others and ourselves. The Christ Child reminds us also of the difference that exists between sugar and salt. When sugar is added to food, it draws attention to itself, to the sugar. When salt is added, it brings out the flavor of the food. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, to the salt. Similarly, the Christ Child draws attention not to himself but to our need for salvation and to God’s bottomless love for us. The Christ Child reminds us that we are called to be salt and not sugar of the earth.

Condensed from Fr. Roten’s paper, The Word of God Made Man by the Holy Spirit presented at the Diocesan Liaisons Conference in preparation for the jubilee year 2000.

Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the December 1998 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.