by Antoinette Bosco
WHEN I SAW the title “Christmas Shock: The Human Experience of God,” I grabbed the book. And when I saw the author’s name, Jean Maalouf, I knew that I had a good learning experience in store.
I have often met with Maalouf, a very spiritual writer who has two doctorates from the Sorbonne University in France. I’ve eaten a Chinese lunch with him and listened with my heart more than my ears as he spoke of why he wanted to write this book.
He wanted to write it, he said, “because we are not taking Jesus seriously, and we cannot live our lives as if Jesus hadn’t come.”
The miracle of Christmas is that “God could become a human being,” and this is a “shocking” miracle, and new proof that “our lives are where the sacred and the secular meet.”
Thus, with the coming of Jesus, he emphasized, there was an explosion of “something new in human history.”
“Jesus made God accessible, tangible, concrete, and eager to be with us, ‘God’s children,’” Maalouf explained. “And so, each and every day we can touch God right where we are in life – right here, right now.”
Meeting with this brilliant scholar, who has devoted his life to what he acknowledges is “contemporary spirituality,” is an exceptional privilege.
In his book, Maalouf underscores why he has come to believe that Christmas is a continuous celebration. “Every time we incarnate what Jesus told us to do, it is Christmas. Every time we stir more love in others, it is Christmas.
Every time we let the Holy Spirit be active in our lives as well as in the lives of others, it is Christmas.
“Christmas is a continuous celebration. … Christmas is the meaning of all things.”
Maalouf points out the teachings of the early fathers of the church that many of us have probably never heard of, saying that they “believed that God became human, so that humans could become god.”
He also quotes St. Irenaeus: “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of his great love for mankind, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”
What a great definition of Christmas!
Maalouf reemphasizes many times in his book that Christmas shows how God is “an active agent in human history,” for Christ’s coming “means God at work in the world.” He underscores that Jesus “loved to celebrate the joy of life.”
We can’t read the Gospels without seeing the laughing Jesus with a great sense of humor – especially when the Roman agent wanted the coin of the realm, and Jesus turns to fisherman Peter and says what I have always “heard” with a smile on my face: “Hey, Peter. Go down to the water and get me a fish.”
We all know the rest of the story! And now, a happy, joyous Christmas to all!