When the Magi set out on their journey to Bethlehem, their maps marked the borders of a large empire which ruled a world of small gods. The times were full of hunger and blood; slavery and tyranny were not exceptions but the rule; and the lot of human life, in general, was a brevity which could be extended and a misery which could be allayed – but a brief misery, all the same.

Yet, in a star in the sky, these wise men read the announcement of something new, the dawning of a new time. They sensed, in that sidereal hieroglyph, the breaking of light across the horizon line of history, a permanent light that was to know no darkening. A light, moreover, which confirmed the unsupportable hope that had always haunted the human heart: that man was meant to be more than a footstool for the proud, that life was more than an ephemeral flicker which glimmers for a moment and goes out. In the star’s light, then, they found all of man’s heart’s hopes confirmed.

But in the broad daylight of the present time, this star’s light is often hard to see. As Kafka once ruefully remarked: “Oh, there is plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope! – but not for us.” Indeed, hope itself is sometimes cursed by those longing for the comfortable darkness of the past. For Nietzsche, such hope was nothing more than a myth peddled with resentment by the crippled and repressed, the tyrannical ideal of an invisible, future world; for Marx, this hope was an opiate, the only thing which stood in the way of the earthly utopia he announced. In each case, “infinite hope” had to be abjured as something impossible. And, with the Übermensch and the classless commune, they promised man “more,” but only by offering him less: the human heart, they insisted, had to be educated out of its natural aspiration to infinite hope – that longing which still lurks in Kafka’s quip.

The times are again hungry and full of blood; and hope, again, is slandered as a lie. The masterworks of the Creator are regularly destroyed by so-called doctors who, armed with ultrasound and curettage, dispose of human life for reasons as slight as the sex of the unborn child. (When Mark Warawa brought forth a motion for the House of Commons to condemn sex-selective abortions earlier this year, it was deemed “non-votable”) So too are the foundations of humanity shaken by activists who see in the Divine design of marriage only an arbitrary social construct to be overcome: the immemorial institution of love and generation is now crumbling – in law and in fact – across the developed world. And, in Quebec, the push to legalize euthanasia continues, in spite of inspiring pro-life legal victories in British Columbia’s Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court of Canada.

These signs of the time seem to contradict the sign that the Magi saw in the sky, so many years ago. Yet, where others might, with reason, see in history only “a single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage,” we dare to discover, instead, a single miracle unfolding still. Even though Kermit Gosnell reenacted the horror of Herod’s infanticidal slaughter in downtown Philadelphia, justice was served when he was found guilty. Young men and women still commit themselves to each other in mutual, fruitful love for the duration of their lives. And euthanasia and assisted suicide are regularly rejected by voters and jurists alike as the elderly and infirm are embraced, their dignity respected, and their needs met.

The star which the Wise Men saw rising from the centre of history centuries ago burns just as brightly today. Occluded by the morning clouds of the present moment, we need only fix our eyes on the dark cave in Bethlehem to feel, from the past, new light. Turning to the humble manger – replete with all the splendor of toolshed – , we find, among the beaten beasts of burden, the incarnate Infant, the wordless Word who, with His very presence, speaks the language of the heart. In this Child, we find the courage to affirm our deepest dreams and longings: our intuitions of human dignity and happiness and hope. Thus do we find again what the Wise Men sought: Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Mighty One on a maiden’s knee, He who made the stars now smiling at us with warmth.

There is, then, with apologies to Kafka: plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope – and, through His self-manifestation at Christmas, He gives it all to us.

We at The Interim wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of joy.