By Christian Bergmann
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the almost intolerable pressure that lockdowns have put on the lives and livelihoods of so many people, a constant refrain we hear is that at some point we will be returning to ‘normal’, even if that is a ‘COVID-normal’.
It is something we have been craving, because normalcy means reliability. It means certainty. It means we can safely expect what’s coming and not be surprised, and that is something that is – at least for society – ingredient to our sense of stability and social health.
But when it comes to the life of the Church, should we be desiring a ‘return to normal’?
The season of Christmas is the celebration of anything but what is ‘normal’.
We might say that ‘normal’ got up and walked out the door when Jesus entered the room.
‘Normal’ – that is, a life governed by sin, death, corruption, the perpetual cycles of human violence – was fundamentally disrupted by the appearance of Jesus into the picture. ‘Normal’ was a life moving, day in and day out, without recognition of God, our place in the cosmos, the transcendent source and purpose of our entire existence. ‘Normal’ was an Australian society and government that did not regard the Church as possessing any value outside of ‘community’ or being a generic ‘source of meaning’ for people. ‘Normal’ was a Church that was kind of bored with itself and unwilling to be or do anything heroic. ‘Normal’ was a life of abundance that, when combined with our spiritual complacency, actively stifled the life of grace.
With the Incarnation (the central mystery of Christmas), Jesus disrupted the course of human history forever.
He revealed Himself as the one through whom everything had been created.
He revealed Himself as the only one through whom everyone can be saved.
The Second Vatican Council’s document Gaudium et Spes has the famous line: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light . . . Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (#22).
Because of the Incarnation, only in Jesus does our existence make any sense.
Because of the Incarnation, only in Jesus do we know the purpose of our existence.
Because of the Incarnation, a life that is ‘normal’ should always be one that mirrors the life of Jesus.
Therefore, this Christmas let us not desire a return to normal, if normal means a life that does not mirror or reflect or witness to the life of Christ.
Let us pray for grace. For renewal. For change in our spiritual lives. Let us pray that our lives actually witness to Christ and make him credible to others.