Life outside the Garden of Eden was no paradise. Adam and Eve worked hard to scrape together enough to eat. They were tired every night. Then winter came, bringing cold and darkness. Archangel Gabriel ascended to God’s throne and said, “My Lord, winter is too much for them, you must make it warmer again.” God said to Gabriel, “Their own actions have made it cold and dark. I cannot lighten their punishment, but I will give you something to make it easier to bear.” With that, he plucked a burning coal straight out of the sun and said, “Bring this to my children.” Gabriel descended into the darkness of earth with the burning coal in his hands. It cast shadows far and wide and the heat warmed his face.

As he got close to the spot where the humans were sleeping, the coal began to fade. He looked about and saw a pine tree a few yards from them. He placed the coal into the heart of pine tree. Eve awoke to see the burning bush. “Adam, look!” They both gathered around the blazing fire. It drove away the darkness and the chill of the night. They learned to keep feeding the fire in order to keep it from going out. Eventually, they learned to start new fires with flint and steel. They could cook, heat their homes, and stay warm and bright through the long winter nights.

Centuries later, Archangel Gabriel alighted at the throne of God. “My Lord,” he said, “Your children have done great things. They have plenty to eat, so that they never grow hungry. They have an abundance of fire so that they never grow cold. They have lit up the night so it never gets dark. But they live in spiritual darkness, unable to see their own value and worth, or Your love for them. Despite their warmth, they are so cold to one another. And despite their abundance of food, they are always hungry.”

“I have been preparing the perfect gift for them.” God reached into himself and took his very Spirit. The Archangel flew to a home in Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the Virgin’s name was Mary. She conceived in her womb and bore a son, and they named him Jesus. He was born into the cold and the dark, but the place where they laid him became warm and bright. The Shepherds and the Wise Men who came to see him carried his warmth and light in their hearts.

This child burning brightly is the fire of God’s love. He has come to light the darkest, coldest place on earth: the human heart. We gather around the manger at Christmas Mass and we bask in the warmth of his love. But many come only to see him, and then return home with hearts just as cold and dark. Open your heart and invite Jesus in. The heart that welcomes him will never grow cold. The home that welcomes him will be lit with heavenly light. And the soul that feeds on him will not hunger again. What can you do to keep feeding the fire of His love in your soul?

Merry Christmas!
Fr. Joel Sember

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