Christmas - and standing on one's head

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Editor's Note: These are excerpts from a homily delivered by the late Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, at the old Ateneo de Manila College of Law chapel in the mid-1950s. Horacio V. Dela Costa, SJ served as Associate Editor of The GUIDON in 1931, and then as one of the Editors-in-Chief from 1931 to 1935. Popularly known as "Too Good to be False," Dela Costa delivered this homily at the old Ateneo de Manila College of Law Chapel in the mid-1950s.

Christmas is when we celebrate the unexpected—it is the festival of surprise.

This is the night when shepherds wake to the song of angels; when the earth has a star for a satellite; when wise men go on a fool's errand, bringing gifts to a Prince they have not seen in a country they do not know.

Night of all nights

This is the night when one small donkey bears on his back the weight of the world's desire, and an ox plays host to the Lord of the heaven. This is the night we are told to seek our king not in a palace but a stable; and although we have stood here, year after year, as our fathers before us, the wonder has not faded nor will it ever fade; the wonder of that moment when we push open the little door, and enter, and entering find in the arms of a Mother who is a Virgin, a Baby who is God.

The homeless God

G.K. Chesterton has said it all for all of us: the only way to view Christmas properly is to stand on one's head. Was there ever a house more topsy-turvy than the House of Christmas, the Cave where Christ was born? For here, suddenly in the very heart of earth, is heaven; down is up and up is down; the angels and the stars look down on the God who made them and God looks up at the things He made. There is no room in an inn for Him who made room, and to spare, for the Milky Way! And where God is homeless, all men are at home.

Gifts we don't expect

We were promised a Saviour, but we never dreamed that God himself would come to save us. We knew that He loved us, but we never dared to think that He loved us so much as to become like us. But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect but always something better, something far better than we hope for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too good to be false.

What we need

That is why our Christian faith is the faith in the unexpected, a religion of surprise. Now more than ever, living in times so troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves and we need it to give others. We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the dead of winter, it is that there may be an Easter in the spring.

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